Independent firm recommended to create wind rules

COLUMBIA CITY — The Whitley County Plan Commission looked at three proposals Wednesday night of companies willing to draft the county’s ordinance for wind energy.LCL Planning, Inc., RWR Armstrong & Associates, Inc. and Ground Rules, Inc. each submitted proposals and quotes for the task of drafting a wind energy ordinance for the county.With three members absent (George Schrumpf, Dave Schilling and John Johnson), the commission voted 6-0 to give Ground Rules, Inc. the nod.The vote was for a recommendation only since the Whitley County Board of Commissioners will give the approval of the quote.The plan commission failed last year to pass an ordinance governing wind energy when public outcry over the possible construction of windmills in the county caused the ordinance to die in committee.The commission, and the county’s Building and Planning Department, agreed to start over.In its January meeting, the commission decided to have an independent firm help in the drafting of a new ordinance.Opponents of the first wind energy ordinance, named the Whitley County Wind Ordinance, organized and put pressure on the board to start over.Some of those residents retained attorneys and organized into a group called Whitley County Concerned Citizens, Inc.The two firms whose proposals were rejected by the plan commission were suggested by the lawyers for that group.Plan Commission member and Whitley County Councilman Paula Reimers didn’t comment on the proposal by RWR Armstrong & Associates, Inc., but said the quote by LCL Planning, Inc. “wasn’t detailed enough.”Reimers made a motion to recommend the proposal by Ground Rules, Inc., which passed the committee.Before the motion passed, Mark Mynhier, an outspoken opponent to the previous wind ordinance, asked to speak.He said he was under the understanding that a committee containing a cross-section of members from all sides of the issue was going to be formed to help with the construction of the ordinance.Reimers said she was afraid that doing that would cause a bias in the other direction and said she thought having an independent firm create a first draft would be the best solution.According to Building and Planning Department Executive Director Dave Sewell, the method would be similar to that being used currently for the county’s comprehensive plan.Following that formula, the ordinance would be created, then posted for public review, allowing citizens to attend open houses and public hearings to provide input.