Montgomery County commissioners were greeted Monday by a large crowd that overflowed from the meeting room into the adjoining hallway on the first floor of the courthouse. Two agenda items triggered the large attendance – comprehensive planning plus the continuing discussion concerning windmill farms.
In anticipation of having several in attendance wanting to speak, commission president Jim Fulwider set some guidelines. Each speaker was given three minutes to share their opinions. Fulwider reminded the audience that the venue was not a debate.
Fulwider then asked Commissioners John Frey and Phil Bane for opening remarks. Frey said he believed it was time for the county to formulate a comprehensive plan. Bane spoke about the wind farm issue in a prepared statement, and in particular stating he needed more information from an “unbiased source” to decide on changing the county wind farm ordinance.
The agenda included the passage of a resolution to seek a $50,000 planning grant from the Office of Community & Rural Affairs grant to develop a county comprehensive plan. Frey said the plan will serve as a road map for future economic growth. It will protect landowners and help establish guidelines for areas in the county targeted for economic development.
Frey had invited several people to speak to lend support to the idea, including State Representative Dr. Tim Brown and State Senator Phil Boots.
Boots admitted his opinion on the subject has changed after serving in the state legislature for several years.
“I am an advocate of a comprehensive plan,” Boots said. “In the past I have not been an advocate of planning or zoning. My experiences tell me if we could all get along, then we would not need government, but we don’t do that.”
Brown warned those in attendance that the county should not count on state legislators to protect their property rights. In fact, recent decisions at the state level has proven legislators are backing off from making land use decisions.
“The General Assembly does not want to be your planning and zoning authority,” Brown said. “And, you do not want us to be your decision maker on land use.”
Those in support of a comprehensive plan include: Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton, Boone County Commissioner Jeff Wolf, Fountain County Commissioner Tim Shumaker, Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh, Connie Neinnger, Economic Development Director of the Indiana Department of Agriculture, South Montgomery School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Shawn Greiner, Crawfordsville Community School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Scott Bowling, Redevelopment Commission president Ron Dickerson, county businessman Steve Loy.
Also speaking were Montgomery County Councilmen Greg Morrison and Mark Davidson. Morrison favors a comprehensive plan, however, Davidson does not.
Davidson said those invited to the meeting to speak in favor of planning were “bureaucrats who were trying to push planning and zoning down the throats of the people.”
Davidson closed his remarks by saying Montgomery County Councilmen Terry Hockersmith, Gary Booth and Don Mills were elected to represent those not in favor of planning. Davidson concluded his remarks by claiming he was speaking for all four men when he said “we will fight to the end to keep this county one of the last free places in the state.”
After the open comment period, commissioners voted 3-0 to send OCRA a letter of intent that they will be applying for a $50,000 grant to develop a comprehensive plan. Upon receipt of the letter OCRA officials will work with the commissioners to start the application process.
The next time-consuming item on the agenda was a discussion on the second reading of an ordinance amendment which would decrease the allowable sound emitted from windmills to 30 decibels from the stated 60 decibels. Attendees spoke against while others supported wind farms. Commissioners voted 3-0 to table the amendment decision to give them more time to gather more facts about noise.
In other business, commissioners:
• Took county highway bids under advisement.
• Approved the West Central Indiana Solid Waste Commitment and annual contribution.
• Approved a resolution of interest in leasing office space in the McGaughey Building for the new public defenders office.
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