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Planning chief seeks county's guidance for wind rules

December 9, 2010

COLUMBIA CITY — County planner Dave Sewell, several weeks removed from a disappointing setback involving the ordinance designed to regulate wind farms, appealed to the Whitley County Commissioners for guidance Monday.
“Before the (Whitley County) Plan Commission goes back to any consideration of the proposed wind ordinance, I wanted to come to you and ask the commissioners for any direction you might have,” said Sewell.
Sewell was instrumental in drafting a proposed ordinance that would oversee the arrival and construction of any “wind farm” in Whitley County.
Last month the county’s plan commission considered an ordinance, called the Whitley County Wind Ordinance that was designed to regulate the construction of such a facility.
Opponents to having the 400-plus-foot windmills erected on or near their properties remonstrated. That opposition, coupled with a perceived conflict of interest by one of the plan commissioners prompted the panel to agree to scrapping the ordinance and starting over.
One of the many common themes to the remonstration last month was the suggestion that the proposed ordinance was in conflict with the county’s comprehensive plan.
According to Sewell, the county is in the midst of creating a new comprehensive plan, which was last updated in 1993.
Ground Rules, Inc. from Zionsville is drafting the plan. Sewell said the document is currently in its second draft.
Sewell said provisions for wind farms, or even for an ordinance governing such facilities is not in the scope of the plan.
“Any specific topic or issue will not be part of it,” said Sewell. “It (the comprehensive plan) is more of a broad, general guideline — more of policy document.”
Sewell said the consulting firm will be asked to to do a “follow-up task” to amend the county’s zoning ordinance, which could and may include provisions for wind energy guidelines.
“I know this is a very controversial issue,” said Commissioner Tom Rethlake. “It’s not the first controversial issue we’ve had. I think you people (plan commission) got beat up a lot more you needed to be.”
After Sewell spoke to the panel, attorney Brian Heck, representing the Whitley County Concerned Citizens spoke to the commissioners on behalf of those who brought the wind ordinance to a screeching halt.
“Their (WCCC) whole mission is they just want to make sure the process (of designing a wind ordinance) involves the citizens of Whitley County,” said Heck.
“I think the commissioners are on the right track in taking a step back and looking at this.”
Heck suggested to the commissioners that an advisory committee of six to eight members be formed with the mission of brainstorming options for the wind ordinance.
He suggested that in addition to several public officials and members of the county’s planning community, the remainder of the committee be made up of members of the citizenry.
The commissioners took all comments and suggestions under advisement.

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