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The Henry County Planning Commission on Thursday denied a one year extension for the CAU (Commission Approved Use) for both NextEra Energy Inc. and its West Fork Wind Project and Apex Clean Energy and its Flat Rock Wind Project.
The projects, approved two years ago, were attempting to extend their CAUs until they take such measures as procuring building permits and begin construction, explained Henry County Zoning Administrator Darrin Jacobs.
The denial means that NextEra and Apex will have to start from scratch with the Planning Commission in the approval process, should they wish to pursue a CAU again.
The request for an extension was initially supposed to be decided upon at the May 18 Planning Commission meeting, but a majority vote did not happen as one member abstained and one was absent. The subsequent June 15 meeting to resolve the issue was cancelled due to scheduling conflicts.
NextEra Energy Inc. with the West Fork Wind Project planned to place wind turbines in Dudley Township. Apex Clean Energy with the Flat Rock Wind Project was planning to place turbines primarily in Dudley and Franklin townships.
A full board was present for Thursday’s meeting. The first request for NextEra’s CAU received a 4-4 vote. Since a member abstained, this was considered a majority vote against NextEra’s request. A NextEra representative was not present.
Apex, who had representatives present, received a 5-4 vote against their request for a CAU extension.
These decisions resulted in a standing ovation from many of the meeting’s attendees, who showed up with signs and dressed in white in protest of the wind farm projects.
In addition to the NextEra and Apex requests, a public hearing was held for a CAU request from Casey’s Marketing Company to construct a gas station and convenience store on the land that formerly housed the Spiceland Family Restaurant.
Casey’s representative Matthias Smith spoke about plans for the convenience store and answered questions from the Planning Commission.
A couple local supporters spoke in favor of the convenience store plans, including a Spiceland resident whose home borders the property. Two others spoke in opposition of Casey’s request. They were from the Chaudhary family, who own the Phillips 66 gas station in Spiceland. They pointed out that another gas station would make five that service Spiceland, the population of which is roughly 900. They also championed the idea of locally-owned businesses, as opposed to Casey’s stations, which are corporately-owned. Two more citizens followed in opposition of Casey’s.
Ultimately, the Planning Commission voted to grant Casey’s the CAU. This represents a $2-3 million investment and is expected to generate 15 to 20 jobs. The Spiceland Family Restaurant will be demolished and the gas station built in its place. Construction will take three to four months.
At the close of the meeting, the Planning Commission announced the resignation of Randy Jones, who was the longest-serving member on the board at the time. Jones is moving to southern Indiana. He has served the county in a variety of ways including as chairman of the BZA (Board of Zoning Appeals).
Upon news of his resignation, Jones received a standing ovation from the attendees, which he remarked was the first of his lifetime.
“If we weren’t moving, I would not be resigning,” Jones said, “and I do it with a great deal of reluctance.”
He said he’s enjoyed his time serving the Planning Commission and the BZA, and working with the public.
“Henry County is home, always has been my home, and no matter where I am always will be my home,” he concluded.
(Editor’s note: This story appeared in the July 23 edition of The Courier-Times but due to a technical problem did not appear on our website.)
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