RUSHVILLE — It’s going to be a busy, and momentous, coming weeks for the Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals regarding the subject of wind energy.
The fate of two proposed wind projects, at least in Rush County – the Flat Rock Wind Project led by Apex Clean Energy, and the West Fork Wind Energy Center, led by NextEra Energy Resources – could very well be determined in the next month, beginning this very week.
The Rush County BZA on Wednesday night will continue its meeting from November, where the board heard about and considered information regarding the special exception permits, submitted by NextEra, on behalf of the West Fork Wind Energy Center.
The BZA, in that November meeting where it originally considered NextEra’s applications, moved to table its vote on the special exception permits until Wednesday night, in order to have more time to review the data which presenters at the meeting – both NextEra representatives along with residents both in support and against the project – provided.
If approved by the BZA, the special exception permits would allow for the construction of 22 industrial wind turbines as part of NextEra’s proposed West Fork Wind Energy Center project. If not approved by the BZA, it would throw the Rush County portion of the roughly $250 million wind project – which also includes Fayette and Henry counties – into uncertainty and possible kill the project’s Rush County portion.
The project, according to its manager Zachary Melda and NextEra’s attorney, Mary Solada of Indianapolis, is still in search of a buyer for the electricity which would be produced by the wind farm, but have recently stated to the Fayette County public the project is close to securing a buyer.
Then, almost a month to the day after the Rush County BZA will decide on the future of one wind project, its decision in another such project will be argued in front of the Indiana State Court of Appeals in Indianapolis.
The Court of Appeals, last week, set a date of Friday, Jan. 13, for oral arguments in the ongoing civil case involving the Rush County BZA and Apex Clean Energy, also known as Flat Rock Wind LLC., regarding the proposed Flat Rock Wind Farm project.
That battle between the BZA and Apex Clean Energy revolves around the BZA’s decision in July 2015 to enact a 2,300-foot setback distance, from non-participating property lines, on Apex’s special exception permits for construction of industrial wind turbines as part of their proposed wind project.
That decision by the BZA was later upheld, during a challenge by Apex in Rush Superior Court, by Judge Matthew D. Bailey. Apex argued that the BZA does not have the authority to change the setback distance from the county-stated minimum of 1,000 feet, while Bailey ruled that the BZA did, in fact, have such authority. The decision led to Apex appealing the ruling, thus sending the case to the Court of Appeals.
The oral arguments are slated to begin at 10 a.m. in Room 413 of the Indiana Court of Appeals Courtroom Statehouse, with the arguments – 30 minutes given to both sides – to be webcast at the website www.IN.gov/judiciary and also televised on a television outside the courtroom.
The Court of Appeals will then, following the oral arguments, later issue an opinion – likely sometime around the spring or early summer of 2017 – regarding the case.
Rush County BZA special exception wind meeting
When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. (following regularly-scheduled APC/BZA meetings at 6 and 7 p.m.)
Where: Rush County Courthouse, 101 E. Second St., Rushville
Topic: Will consider special exception permits for West Ford Wind Energy Center from NextEra Energy Resources