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Indiana Court of Appeals Decision: Mammoth Solar application improperly approved

Indiana Court of Appeals|September 21, 2022
IndianaLegalZoning/PlanningPhotovoltaic Solar

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the Aug. 24, 2021, Pulaski Superior Court ruling that halted the portion of the Mammoth Solar project from moving forward in Pulaski County. The project proposes to installed solar panels across 4,511 acres of Pulaski County farmland. A portion of the court ruling is provided below, The full decision can be downloaded at the document links on this page.


Statement of the Case
 
[1] In 2019, the Pulaski County Board of Commissioners (“the Commissioners”) approved and adopted a Unified Development Ordinance (“the UDO”) that provides a regulatory scheme for the construction and operation of solar energy systems in the county. In 2020, Mammoth Solar (“Mammoth Solar”) submitted an application for a special exception (“the Application”) seeking approval to construct a commercial solar energy farm on 4,511 acres of  farmland in Pulaski County. Following a public hearing, the Pulaski County Board of Zoning Appeals (“the BZA”) unanimously approved the Application. Petitioners Connie Ehrlich, Daniel and Jennifer Knebel, John and Toni Masterson, Larry and Gail Lambert, Keith and Gale Davis, and Dean Cervenka, (collectively “the Petitioners”), who either own property within 660 feet of the proposed solar farm, reside within one mile of the proposed solar farm, or have homes that will be bordered by the solar farm’s panels, filed a petition for judicial review asking the trial court to enter an order reversing the BZA’s decision and denying the Application. The trial court concluded that the Application had failed to comply with the minimum requirements of the UDO, that the BZA should not have considered or acted on Mammoth Solar’s incomplete application, and, that by disregarding the UDO’s requirements, the BZA’s actions were arbitrary and capricious, not in accordance with the law, and without observance of procedure required by law. The trial court vacated all actions taken on Mammoth Solar’s Application and remanded the matter to the BZA.
 
[2] Mammoth Solar now appeals the trial court’s order. Mammoth Solar specifically argues that: (1) the Petitioners lack standing to challenge the BZA’s approval of the Application; (2) the Petitioners did not timely transmit the BZA’s record to the trial court; (3) the BZA’s approval of the Application was not arbitrary and capricious; and (4) the Petitioners failed to demonstrate that they had been prejudiced by the BZA’s approval of the Application. Concluding that: (1) the Petitioners have standing to challenge the BZA’s approval of the Application; (2) the Petitioners timely transmitted the BZA’s record to the trial court; (3) the BZA’s approval of the application was arbitrary and capricious; and (4) the Petitioners have demonstrated that they were prejudiced by the BZA’s approval of the Application, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.
 
[3] We affirm. 
 
Issues
 
1. Whether the Petitioners had standing to challenge the BZA’s approval of the Application.
2. Whether the Petitioners timely transmitted the BZA’s record to the trial court.
3. Whether the BZA’s approval of the Application was arbitrary and capricious.
4. Whether the Petitioners demonstrated that they had been prejudiced by the BZA’s approval of the Application.

Attachments

Mammoth Solar Appeal 2022 09 21

October 15, 2022


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