EDITOR’S NOTE: The Henry County Planning Commission did not have enough votes either way Thursday night to approve or deny requests from two wind farm companies who wanted a second one-year extension of the commission-approved uses (CAUs) that will let each company continue to develop their industrial wind turbine projects in the southern part of the county. The planning commission intends to discuss and possibly re-vote on the issue at its June meeting. More information about that will appear in Tuesday’s paper.
Although the Henry County Planning Commission did not extend permits for two wind farms in southern Henry County, people opposing the turbines did not all leave the courthouse happy Thursday night.
Before the planning commission meeting started, Melissa Elmore of Responsible Wind handed out a letter from Syracuse attorney Stephen Snyder addressed to Zoning Administrator Darrin Jacobs and the Henry County Planning Commission. The letter requested that the planning commission refuse commission-approved use (CAU) extension requests from Apex Clean Energy and NextEra Energy Inc.
In the letter, Snyder asserted that Henry County’s existing wind ordinance “is invalid, the original notice of the hearing at which it was recommended for approval being invalid by state statute.”
Snyder’s letter also said the planning commission does not have statutory authority to approve Commission Approved Uses as a matter of law.
The letter ended: “Any action taken by the Plan Commission to extend the approvals issued to APEX and NextEra will likewise be invalid and beyond the authority of the Plan Commission.”
Following the meeting, Henry County resident Gary Rodgers shared that he thought the proceedings had been “rigged” in favor of the wind companies.
A note on the bottom of Thursday’s planning commission agenda stated: “There being no public hearings this month, no public comment will be taken.”
Rodgers and other Henry County residents opposing the proposed wind farms claim that the planning commission didn’t apply this rule evenly when they accepted comments in favor of the CAU extensions from an attorney representing families who hold signed land lease agreements with one of the energy companies.
Attorney Alex Intermill of Bose McKinney & Evans spoke in favor of Apex’s Flat Rock Wind Project on behalf of “the client group for the Flat Rock Wind Project.” Intermill told the planning commission his clients have chosen to remain somewhat anonymous due to hostility surrounding the wind farm projects.
Intermill said the group of Henry County landowners “remains fully behind this project” and respectfully requests an extension of the CAU.
“Mr. Intermill spoke on behalf of the leaseholders,” Rodgers said. “However, people in opposition to the project, whether they live in area, live in the county, whatever, were not allowed to speak at all. We had a representative who requested time to speak, and they were denied.”
When asked why Intermill was permitted to speak but someone from the opposing side was not, Jacobs said planning commission attorney Sean Row advised taking public comment was not required. A Courier-Times effort to contact Row for additional comment on this question was unsuccessful by presstime.
Rodgers also questioned whether the planning commission actually had to take any action on the CAU extension request at all.
The commission had the option to do nothing and leave the CAUs expire as they are currently set up to, according to information provided by Jacobs.
“They didn’t have to do anything. There was no vote required in new business. You can simply ignore the new business, and they certainly could have done that,” Rodgers said.