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Energy company, zoning board head to court again

RUSHVILLE – One of the nation’s largest energy company’s and the Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals are heading to court for the second time, while another civil suit involving the parties is still ongoing.

West Fork Wind LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, filed a petition late last week in Rush Circuit Court against the Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals, regarding the board’s decision last month to unanimously deny West Fork Wind’s application 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 petition filed by West Fork Wind LLC asks for a judicial review of the board’s decision to deny the application, which 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 last month, the application was denied due to “the way it was presented.”

West Fork’s petition is calling for the Rush Circuit Court to order the BZA to explain their decision in writing, per Steven Stengel, director of corporate communication for NextEra Energy Resources.

“West Fork Wind has filed a petition with the court to require the Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals to make written findings of fact regarding its decision to deny our special use permit application for a transmission line,” Stengel said in an email Monday. “We believe that the law requires the BZA to do this and we are simply requesting that they do their jobs.”

It is the second civil action taken by West Fork Wind LLC, this year, against the Rush County BZA. The first took place in January, when West Fork filed suit challenging the BZA’s decision in December 2016 to deny a special exception for the construction of 22 turbines for the West Fork Wind Energy Center project in Rush 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, prompting the civil action by NextEra.

That case is still ongoing in the Rush Circuit Court, under Special Judge Clay Kellerman of Franklin County.