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Wind farm application is still denied

The Henry County courtroom filled with cheers and applause Thursday evening after the Board of Zoning Appeals voted down an appeal from Big Blue River Wind Farm LLC.

The appeal centered around a commission approved use (CAU) denial from the Henry County Planning Commission. The planning commission cast a 4-4 tied voted in July on the CAU request.

In September, the planning commission voted 7-0 to accept a Findings of Fact that defined the tie vote as a denial of the request.

Henry County Zoning Administrator Darrin Jacobs said Thursday the current precedent has been that a CAU request needs five votes to pass.

Big Blue River Wind Farm attorney Matt Price argued Thursday the tie was instead “indecisive” and “no vote.”

The Henry County Planning Commission has treated tie votes in the past as denials and no one appealed. Price said this were cases of people not pursuing their rights.

“Just because a past mischaracterization of a vote has been used doesn’t mean it should be perpetuated in all circumstances,” Price said.

Price said the planning commission needed five votes to either approve or deny any CAU request. Accepting anything else would deny due process not just to Big Blue River Wind Farm but also to the people who spoke against its request in July, Price said.

Henry County attorney Sean Rowe explained the BZA could either overturn the planning commission’s vote, uphold the vote, send the issue back to the planning commission or wait to take further action at a future meeting.

BZA member Cathy Hamilton made the motion to uphold the planning commission’s denial. Larry Brayden seconded.

“We are judging on the policy as it is now written and understood and practiced in this county. Whether we like that piece or not is another conversation,” Hamilton said. “But the policy as it now stands honors the tie as being a denial.”

The Henry County Board of Zoning Appeals voted 4-0 to uphold the decision. Member Matt Chapman recused himself for a possible conflict of interest.

The audience broke out in applause and ‘Thank Yous’ after the vote. Several people stood to clap.

BZA Chairman Dan Roach called a brief recess while the courtroom cleared after that case ended. When the meeting resumed, the BZA heard an appeal from Daniel Cory to build a house on a parcel that was less than the required 1.5 acres.

No one spoke against Cory’s request, and the BZA approved it 5-0.