This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Long meetings

We got heavy rains late last week, five or six inches on Thursday and Friday, with most of it coming on Friday. We had flash flood warnings and water over a lot of streets. There is still standing water in some fields, and Weston Lake has partially reformed, much to the delight of frogs and toads. A lot of people had water in their basements, which is not surprising given how much rain came down in a short period. The rain on Friday was in a narrow band that trained over Rensselaer. Because most of the Iroquois watershed did not get nearly as much, the river never hit flood stage. (For serious flooding, recall June of 2015 where the river hit record highs for many days.)

One building, a building that has a Front Street address but fronts on an alley, had a partial roof collapse. It only recently got a new owner.
There were three meetings on Monday evening, one quite short and the other two very long. The short meeting was the Rensselaer City Council meeting, which was not only short but uneventful. There was a transfer of funds and a postponement of a discussion of changing job classifications. The Council gave approval to the Project Manager to seek bids for some kind of loader. The existing machine is a 1995 model and is again having mechanical problems. A citizen voiced concerns about speeding on East Grace and flooding in that area. It was noted in that discussion that rain gutters are not supposed to be connected to the City's sewer system--there is an ordinance against that.

There was an update on the new police station which is nearing completion. There will be fireworks at the Fairground this Saturday after dusk. The City has a new recycling trailer and it has been on the route for a couple weeks. The water main for Well #8 has been tied into the water treatment plant. The well building has been ordered and should be installed in a couple of weeks. The contractor is finishing up work on sidewalks. (On Tuesday they were working on a section along Milroy.)
The long meetings were the County BZA and Plan Commission meetings that were held at the fairgrounds to a large audience.
The only items on the BZA agenda were for a proposed hog farm in Jordan Township. Last month the Plan Commission had approved a recommendation to the Commissioners to rezone the property from A1 to A3, a necessary step before anything else can be done. (That matter will probably be on the agenda of the July 2 Commissioners meeting.) The project still needed a special exception, needed for any confined feeding operation. The presentation from the hog farm was essentially the same as what they gave to the Plan Commission last month. After much discussion and some citizen comments, the variance passed. However, one of the findings of facts had a tie vote, and this stopped the proceedings for the setbacks. (The ordinance requires that any confined feeding operation be set at certain distances from other properties and county roads. If it is not within those limits, it must get a variance.) I was surprised at this because I do not understand why the problem with the setbacks was not also a problem for the variance. The Board huddled with its lawyer about how to proceed. The Attorney was given ten days to research the matter. It may be that the item will be on the agenda of the next Plan Commission meeting; if all five members had been present, there should not have been a tie.

The many citizens attending were seeing local government in action. I am not sure that they were seeing it at its best.

The Plan Commission met next. The first item on their agenda was moved to the July meeting. The next item was a proposal to subdivide a twenty-acre lot in Wheatfield township into four five-acre lots. There was concern from a couple of neighbors about how big the houses would be--they did not want cheap housing going in that would depress the value of their homes. Since the owners of the lots want to sell them and not develop them, no one knows what kind of houses will be built there, but one does not expect a cheap house to go onto an expensive plot of land. Eventually this item got bogged down in a discussion of how often a lot could be subdivided. There were conflicting regulations in the UDO. So motion was made and passed to table it until the attorney looks at the matter.

The next item was a review of the wording for CAFO setbacks. At the last Plan Commission meeting, the Commission had passed a recommendation for the Commissioners to change the setbacks for CAFOs. Jasper County had among the most stringent in the state, and they were drastically reduced. However, the motion was not in the form of a re-wording of the appropriate section of the UDO. A couple of people had worked on that wording, but had not given copies before the meeting to the members of the Commission. As they thought about the wording, they also thought about the setbacks and after more discussion, they voted to rescind the motion that they had passed in the previous meeting. They changed the setback from the foundations of the CAFO to the property line to either 400 or 500 feet (I thought I heard both numbers). That will now go to the Commissioners who have ultimate say on what is in the UDO.

Finally it was time for the presentation that most of the audience had come to hear. The presentation was arranged by the Pulaski-Jasper Property Rights organization, a new organization formed to fight the wind-farm proposed by RES. They had invited Kevon Martis from Michigan. He gave a speech that was similar to this one on youtube.

He argued that wind this far east is not nearly as strong as that further west. He had a slide showing how much aid various forms of energy get from government subsidies and tax credits. Wind gets a lot but not nearly as much as solar gets. As for county regulations, he argues for substantial setbacks but people who own property within those limits can negotiate with the wind companies to grant the wind companies a waiver. In other words, anyone within the setbacks must agree to allow the wind turbine.

The meeting adjourned shortly before 11:00 pm. Tomorrow a special post.

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