Nearly 60 Indiana counties – including DeKalb and LaGrange – reportedly have passed resolutions or written letters in opposition to House Bill 1381.
The bill effectively would remove local control of commercial wind and solar energy projects. It would establish state standards for setback, height and other specifications and prohibit local governments from setting stricter standards.
House Bill 1381 passed in the House of Representatives by a 58-38 vote. All three local House members opposed it, including Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn; Rep. Denny Zent, R-Angola; and Rep. David Abbott, R-Rome City.
The bill now is being considered in the Indiana Senate, where local Sens. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, and Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, have pledged to oppose it.
“There’s a place for solar, there’s a place for wind, but I think the locals ought to be the ones to determine where that place is and if it’s right for their community,” Glick said Feb. 27 at a public forum in DeKalb High School.
The Association of Indiana Counties and Indiana Association of County Commissioners also oppose the bill, according a news release issued Wednesday.
DeKalb County Commissioner Mike Watson voiced his concerns to Glick and Kruse at the Feb. 27 forum.
“We certainly feel a ‘one size fits all’ regulation of wind and solar by the state is not in the best interests of our constituents, or the right approach for development in DeKalb County,” Watson said Wednesday.
“As commissioners, we are unified against the State of Indiana taking away any more of the local control we have of our taxpayers’ property. We want the local citizens to decide what the best use for their land is instead of lobbyists in Indianapolis serving their own self-interests,” DeKalb Commissioner Todd Sanderson said.
“Bill 1381 is yet another power grab by the state,” DeKalb County Commissioners President Bill Hartman said Wednesday.
“It would take away the county’s authority to write their own renewable ordinance. Also, the ordinance we already have on the books would be null and void with no grandfather clause permitted,” Hartman said.
“This is not about making life better for the people of Indiana but to fatten the bank accounts of those few in renewable energy business,” Hartman added. “Every county is different, and every county should have the right to decide what their airspace looks like.”
In 2013, a different trio of DeKalb commissioners adopted a rule extending the setback for a wind turbine from a neighboring property line from 400 feet to 1,300 feet. That effectively ended a Spain-based developer’s plans for a wind-turbine farm in northwestern DeKalb County, where numerous residents had voiced opposition.
Battles over wind and solar installations are continuing elsewhere in Indiana. “It’s gotten very, very violent, if you will, in some counties,” Glick said at the Feb. 27 forum.
“There are some tremendous efforts, especially down in central Indiana, to take control to Indianapolis to govern the development of these wind farms and solar arrays,” Glick said.
“I’m very much in favor of local control,” Glick added. “I think it belongs with the people at home. I think they ought to be able to get up in a local meeting and say, ‘We’re just not ready for that, or we just don’t want to look at a wind turbine’ … and that should be a decision made at the local area.”
Kruse said state lawmakers often face choices between local and state control.
“In this particular case, I do side with the local control. In another case, I might decide for state control in a different area,” Kruse said. He added that he would vote against House 1381 when it comes before the Indiana Senate.
“We are opposed to HB 1381 because it removes a county’s ability to negotiate on behalf of the community,” said Ken Paust, a Wayne County commissioner and the Association of Indiana Counties president.
“Citizens who live and work in these communities are the best ones to make the decision and will have their county’s best interest in mind. House Bill 1381 negates the ability to develop long-term, compatible land uses crafted through local public meetings,” Paust added.
“Local citizens should have the right to voice their opinion on what is being built in and around their properties,” said Tom Wall, a Huntington County commissioner and Indiana Association of County Commissioners president.
“The passing of this bill will remove the ability of the county to set their own standards,” Wall added. “Commercial and industrial projects can reduce the value of a neighbor’s property, so the decision about where these projects are located should be made at the community level.”
The two associations do not oppose renewable energy, they said in a news release. They said that for some rural counties, renewable energy projects have created higher tax revenue and funding for projects.
“In White County, we have been very successful being able to negotiate our own renewable energy projects,” said Steven Burton, a White County commissioner. “We are not anti-renewable energy, but I am concerned over the precedent that could be set by the passing of House Bill 1381. What other industries will the state feel the need to set standards and remove the voice of the local people?”
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