Library filed under Legal from Indiana
The county wind-farm statute requires a minimum setback of 1,000 feet from residential properties and bars property owners from building a residential structure within the setback area. That means even landowners who aren’t participating in the project could not build a residential building, or add onto their current home, if it’s within 1,000 feet of a wind turbine.
The complaint refers to Cass County's wind energy conversion systems ordinance, which requires wind turbines to be at least 1,000 feet from homes. That means no homes can be constructed within 1,000 feet of wind turbines, which the complaint states "authorizes the taking of private property without compensation being paid."
Big Blue River Wind Farm, LLC has volleyed the ball back to Henry County residents who claim there is no legal right for wind turbines to be set up around these parts.
Franklin Circuit Court II Judge Clay Kellerman was selected last week as special judge in the civil case involving West Fork Wind LLC and the Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals, in which West Fork Wind – better known as NextEra Energy Resources – is challenging the Rush County BZA’s decision on their special exception permit applications back in December 2016.
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana should not regulate statewide zoning requirements for wind turbine development, those in the industry said Thursday, despite requests from Hoosiers who favor state controls to assure consistency.
As of this writing, local wind turbine projects seem to have run their course with local decision-makers. A lawsuit is still working its way through the system to clarify whether or not those boards ever had authority to give a green light to the power producers in the first place.
The state’s highest court ruled May 25 to deny a request from Flat Rock Wind, LLC. – also known as Apex Clean Energy – to hear the case of the company’s appeal of the decision, made earlier this year by the Indiana Court of Appeals, upholding a Rush County judge’s decision that the Rush County Area Board of Zoning Appeals was within its right to enact a 2,300-foot setback distance for industrial wind turbines in the proposed Flat Rock Wind Farm.
“After review of the documentation received, the appearance of procedural errors is present, while the question of good governance is also raised,” Elmore said. “The public deserves to be aware of a some questionable emails, concerning appointed or elected officials using the Planning Commission as a liaison for their personal business.”
West Fork Wind LLC, also known as NextEra Energy Resources, last month filed a civil action in Rush Superior Court requesting a judicial review of the Rush County BZA’s decision, in December 2016, regarding NextEra’s special exception permit application for the construction of 22 industrial wind turbines within the county, as part of the West Fork Wind Energy Center project. The project is slated to span Rush, Fayette and Henry counties.
The Indiana Court of Appeals Tuesday morning issued its opinion on the case involving Flat Rock Wind, LLC. – also known as Apex Clean Energy – and the Rush County Area Board of Zoning Appeals, with that opinion upholding the decision back 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 the proposed wind project which is slated to span both Rush and Henry counties.
An application prepared by Apex Clean Energy to construct and operate the Flat Rock wind facility was submitted to the Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals (the “BZA”) on March 15, 2015. The 180 MW project consisted of 95-3 MW turbines with approximately 66 turbines located in Rush County and the remaining turbines to be sited in Henry County. The Rush County BZA ultimately approved the application with the condition that the setback distance between the wind turbines and non-participating properties be 2,300 feet. The County's ordinance established a setback distance of 1,000 feet. Apex filed a petition before the Rush County Superior Court for judicial review of the BZA’s decision. On May 27, 2016, a judge issued findings of fact and conclusions of law that upheld the BZA’s approval with the 2,300-foot setback provision. Apex appealed the decision to the Indiana Court of Appeals. The decision by the Appeals Count was in favor of Rush County. The full decision can be accessed by clicking the links on the page. A portion of the decision is provided below.
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 parties’ contract anticipated who is liable when transmission facilities are not available. “Duke is to pay for power not taken,” Easterbrook wrote. “Duke could build its own transmission lines or buy extra capacity from NIPSCO [a grid owner] or some other firm.”
APEX Clean Energy, last week filed its appellant brief with the Indiana Court of Appeals contesting the May decision by Rush Superior Court Judge Matthew D. Bailey, which upheld the Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals decision in 2015 to enact a 2,300-foot wind turbine setback from non-participating property lines.
The group of county landowners, who reside in those townships, are challenging the decommissioning agreement between Whitewater Wind LLC and the county commissioners based on their claims that the agreement did not adhere to the county’s zoning ordinance, specifically regarding financial assurance related to the decommissioning and removal of commercial wind turbines once they’ve reached their lifespan of roughly 30 years.
Following the ruling by Decatur County Judge Bailey which supported Rush County BZA’s decision on the setbacks of wind turbine distance from non-participating landowners, APEX Clean Energy/Flatrock Wind Project had 30 days to file an appeal of that decision and last week they did just that.
Fayette Circuit Judge Beth A. Butsch, who had been presiding in the court case involving Fayette County Commissioners, Whitewater Wind LLC – aka NextEra Energy Resources – and the group of 34 county landowners challenging the legitimacy of the county’s wind turbine decommissioning agreement with NextEra, recused herself this week from the case.
“The Board of Zoning Appeals went through that massive hearing, reviewed the evidence and did a superb job of analyzing the information and making their decision,” Snyder said. “So I think from the standpoint of the (decision), Judge Bailey’s standpoint is very detailed and clearly shows the connection between the evidence that was presented and the 2,300-foot setback.”
In regards to the request for a judicial review filed by Apex, Judge Bailey of Greensburg entered his judgment on June 1, 2016 affirming the Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals July 1, 2015 decision, with the Setback Condition. If no appeal is filed, the judicial review will conclude. A brief summary of the ruling can be found below. The order issued by the judge can be accessed by clicking the link(s) on this page.
Among the concerns from some included the ambiguous language in the original decommissioning agreement and the length of time listed for the security bonds required to pay for the decommissioning of the wind turbines – which appeared to much for a much shorter period of time than the estimated lifespan of the wind farm project, which is required by Fayette County zoning code.