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BZA turns down wind farm transmission line

RUSHVILLE – The Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals found itself again this week saying no to the developer of a projected wind farm project in the area.

The board, during a public hearing Tuesday night, unanimously denied the application by West Fork Wind LLC., also known as NextEra Energy Resources, for a special exception and variance regarding an electrical transmission line for the proposed West Fork Wind Energy Center project in Fayette, Rush and Henry counties.

The company’s petition for a special exception and variance was for “a private utility consisting of an electrical transmission line, including power poles likely at 90-110 feet, maximum 130 feet, extending east to west from Fayette County line, on less than 40 acres including associated switchyard,” and would have run from approximately 430 North to approximately 700 East, in Rush County’s Union Township, for use in the proposed three-county wind farm project which is slated to see the bulk of wind turbines – more than 40 – constructed in Fayette County.

According to the Rush County Area Plan Commission office, the application was denied due to “the way it was presented.”

It is another blow, at least in Rush County, to plans for the West Fork Wind Energy Center, following the BZA’s decision in December 2016 to deny a special exception for the construction of 22 turbines for the project in that county, with a height of roughly 500 feet, and a setback distance from non-participating property owners of 1,500 feet.

The BZA not only denied the special exception application at that time, but also added their own requirements for setback distance and turbine height for future special exception applications NextEra might submit.

That matter prompted a civil suit by NextEra against the Rush County BZA, challenging the board’s decision – a suit that is still ongoing in the courts.

Steven Stengel, spokesman for NextEra Energy Resources, said Wednesday the company is disappointed in Tuesday night’s decision by the Rush County BZA regarding the transmission line for the West Fork Wind Energy Center, but that it will be exploring other options.

“While we are disappointed by the vote of the Rush County BZA related to our request for a special exemption to construct an electric transmission line, we are pursuing several other options that will enable the West Fork Wind Project to proceed,” he said in an email. “Assuming the necessary regulatory approvals, we hope to begin construction in the spring or summer of 2018.