Montgomery County Council members discussed the ongoing issue of wind turbines in Montgomery County at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday. Although the council has no official say in the matter, several members expressed their views on the existing county wind turbine ordinance and property owner rights and responsibilities.
Councilman Gary Booth started the discussion by expressing concern with the ordinance that was drawn up and adopted by county commissioners in 2009. Booth made a motion to have the council draw up a letter asking commissioners to place a moratorium on approving any building permits for wind turbines and to ask commissioners to review the ordinance.
County attorney Dan Taylor was in attendance at the meeting. He said commissioners cannot place a moratorium on any action that is already legal. He cited several recent court cases that counties have lost trying to contradict what an ordinance already allowed.
“If you already have a process, then people have the right to use the present law,” Taylor said. “Other counties have been faced with the exact situation, but the law is specific on what you can and cannot do. You cannot issue a moratorium on something you already said residents could do.”
Councilman Mark Davidson believes the officials who approved the ordinance in 2009 did “the best they could.” He thinks it is time to revisit the ordinance because “we know a lot more about (wind turbines) than we did in 2009.”
Council president Terry Hockersmith agreed with Davidson. Hockersmith was a commissioner in 2009. He admits, “There was a lot of stuff we didn’t know at the time.”
The motion to send a letter to commissioners failed by a vote of 2-5.
At the invitation of Hockersmith, Jason Semler of Umbaugh and Associates, presented information on local income taxes and property taxes. Local officials have been discussing the possibility of redistributing the local income taxes collected. Also, the discussion included the effects of changing the method property taxes are calculated by residential, agriculture and commercial land owners.
County officials learned they have options to generate more income, one of which is to raise the local income tax rate, and having residential owners pay a higher percentage of property taxes collected.
Montgomery County Sheriff Mark Casteel reported his 2017 budget is being hit by overcrowding at the jail. Presently the jail, which was built to house 224 inmates, has 257 inmates. With a change in Indiana law, local jails are now required to keep more inmates who have committed lesser felonies.
“At some point, the reality of building onto our jail is just down the road,” Casteel said.
In other business, the council:
• Tabled a request from West Central Solid Waste District for a committal letter for 2018.
• Approved five resolutions stating Banjo, Dubose Steel, IMPA, Nucor and Steel Technologies are in compliance with the tax abatements the companies received.
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