Board ratifies comprehensive plan

COLUMBIA CITY — The Whitley County Plan Commission ratified the county’s newest comprehensive plan at its meeting Tuesday night and will take the plan, with one alteration, to the Whitley County Board of Commissioners for approval on Monday.“This is a normal course of action for the comprehensive plan,” said Dave Sewell, Executive Director of the county’s Building and Planning Department.“We’ve had various input meetings, this is the fourth draft (Draft D) and we have not received any correspondence or written objections to the comprehensive plan.”Brad Johnson of Ground Rules, Inc., the company that drafted the plan, spoke at the meeting, which included a public hearing.The county’s most prominent “hot-button” issue found its way into the ratification process of the plan.Johnson told the nine-member panel there was a request from a special interest group to have language altered in a portion of the plan that referred to wind energy.After a suggestion by Johnson, the board agreed to ratify the plan, with a stipulation that the alteration will be added before the plan is brought before the commissioners Monday.The change adds language regarding community input on wind energy. The addition states: “...initiate a community-based process to seek input on a county-wide wind energy policy and to recommend standards for wind energy generation facilities.”Since late last year, when the plan commission had its plan to pass a wind energy ordinance derailed, opponents to the construction of windmills in the county have pushed for more stipulations in the comprehensive plan regarding the issue.On Tuesday night, the panel and the audience heard from a prominent South Whitley resident who’s in favor of wind farms coming to the county.“We’re going to have to do something in rural America to pull ourselves up,” said Steve Sickafoose, who touted the economic advantages of wind farms.“I do agree with the other side though that probably one of the worse situations has been the lack of communication.”Johnson told the commission he would have the plan completed with the new addition in time for Monday’s County Commissioner’s meeting.