Henry County has made no promises that a proposed wind farm project will get a hearing this summer.
Big Blue River Wind Farm, LLC included a public hearing date of July 18 on its application this week for a commission approved use (CAU) permit to install 38 wind turbines in and around Harrison Township.
According to Henry County Zoning Administrator Darrin Jacobs, the Henry County Planning Commission has not scheduled any meetings for July yet.
The only planning commission meeting on the calendar as of Friday is June 20. The only item on the agenda for that meeting is a rezone request from a business on U.S. Hwy 36 hoping to expand its operations.
A July meeting would be the earliest the Henry County Planning Commission could consider Big Blue River Wind Farm’s request for a CAU permit. Per the Development Code, permit requests have to be submitted a minimum of 30 days before the public hearing or meeting.
Possible conflicts of interest
In the meantime, some members of the Henry County Planning Commission and other county officials may be required by law to take themselves altogether out of the conversation.
According to Indiana Code 36-7-4, a member of a plan commission is disqualified and may not participate in certain decisions of the commission if: “(1) the member is biased or prejudiced or otherwise unable to be impartial; or (2) the member has a direct or indirect financial interest in the outcome of the zoning decision.”
According to Big Blue River Wind Farm’s permit application, Henry County Planning Commission member Olene Veach has signed leases for two parcels with the wind farm project.
According to the application, Veach’s parcel in Middletown could have a wind turbine generator, collection lines and an access road. Veach’s parcel in New Castle could have collection lines.
Planning commission member Kenon Gray may have to prove he can make an unbiased decision about the project before he takes part in any formal discussions about the CAU permit.
Gray was elected to the Henry County Council on a heavily “anti-wind” platform. Gray spoke many times locally against the idea of installing industrial wind turbines in Henry County. He also recently testified at the Indiana Statehouse in favor of allowing small communities in Henry County to keep a four-mile buffer zone beyond their boundaries.
Like Gray, Henry County Commissioner Ed Tarantino was very outspoken against proposed wind farm projects in Henry County before he was elected to public office. Tarantino also spoke at the Statehouse in support of the buffer zone law.
If the Big Blue River Wind Farm project makes its way to the county commissioners for action, Tarantino might need to declare a conflict of interest.
Henry County Commissioner Kim Cronk may also be required to declare a conflict of interest in respect to the Big Blue River Wind Farm project.
According to the CAU permit application, Cronk’s parents Jack and Barbara Cronk of Cronk Farm LLC have pending leases on six New Castle parcels.
These pieces of land could be used for wind turbine generators, collection lines, access roads and power performance towers.
Other Henry County officials who could eventually be asked to vote on the Big Blue River Wind Farm project should be aware of any possible conflicts of interest. The application shows leases on nearly 100 parcels signed in or around Harrison Township.
The properties are owned by a mix of local and out-of-county companies and individuals.
The landowners listed on the CAU application are: A Rising Sun, LLC; Abner, Larry; Abshire, Robert; Allan, Jean; Armstrong, Craig; Armstrong, Martin; Armstrong, Neil; Bailey, Bruce; Basey, Donna; Becker, Brian; Butterfield, Robert; Century Meadow Farms LP; Chambers, David; Clark, Duane; Crider, Maurice; Dudley, David; Gene R Wilkinson Farms LLC; Gray, David; Gray, Wayne; Griffin, William; Hanna, Richard; Higgs, Paul; Honey Creek Railroad Inc; Huckeby, John; Jones, Kip; Jones, Timothy; Koger, Kent; Koger, Lyle; Martin, Jake; Masters, Terry; Maxwell, Nora; Neal Farms; PD Sparks Farms LLC; Pittsford, Eugene; Pittsford, Gerald; Ritchie, Kenneth; Score Holdings LLC; Score, Michael; Stewart, Brad; Vickery, Kevin; Williams, Jonathan; Wisehart, Kenneth; Zambos, Timothy.
The full CAU application, which includes 22 documents and 391 pages, is available to the public at www.henryco.net/PlanningCommBigBlue River.aspx.
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