This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.
Wednesday, November 28, 2018
CAFOs, wind farms, and solar parks
The City Council meeting ran unusually long and the Jasper County BZA meeting started earlier than usual, so I missed it completely. There was only one item on the agenda, a special exception from Union Township from someone who wants to rent a loft on a nightly basis, perhaps via Airbnb. It passed. The Plan Commission meeting followed and I missed the first item on the agenda, the amendment to the UDO for confined feeding set-back requirements. This issue had gone back and forth between the Commissioners and the Plan Commission earlier this year and the differences had been narrowed, but not eliminated. This amendment restarted the process. I was surprised to learn after the meeting that it had been sent to the Commissioners with no recommendation; the vote was split 4-4. Apparently the sticking point was a revised setback of 300 feet to an A1 property. The setback that the Plan Commission had previously passed was 500 feet to the property line without mention of the zoning of adjacent parcels.
When I did arrive, discussion of the proposed Wind Farm Overlay District had just begun. The draft they were considering was a new draft, one prepared by the special committee that had been formed at a previous meeting. There were a couple of small suggested changes made by members of the Commission before the public was invited to comment. One of the people who was in the forefront of the opposition to wind turbines thanked them for the work they had put into the draft. A lady from Wheatfield spoke of the negatives of coal-generated power, implying that she preferred wind-generated power. A farmer from southern Jasper County objected to the ordinance saying the regulations would stop him from doing what he wanted with his property. He suggested that wind turbines would make sense in along the southern border because they were already just across the county line and he and his neighbors already had the ill-effects of turbines but none of the benefits. Someone mentioned that there are plans for a very large solar farm near Wheatfield and that it could dampen the adverse financial effects of the closure of the Shahfer Plant. A couple of consultants spoke and argued that the sound and flicker restrictions in the ordinance were too strict.
The Commission then passed the ordinance and sent it on to the Commissioners who must also pass it for it to take effect.
I did get a copy of the passed ordinance on Tuesday. It requires a setback of 1.5 times tip height to the property line and the greater of 2,640 feet of 6.5 times the tip height to any non-participating property (someone who has no contract with the wind farm company). The setback to a non-participating residence is one mile (which can be waived, though why it would be waived by someone who does not sign a contract is unclear to me) and one mile from any lot zoned R1, R2, VR, M1, M2, or IS. (I do not know what some of those are.) No shadow flicker is allowed on a non-participant and the maximum sound level at the property line of a non-participant is 35 decibels.
Even if this ordinance is watered down a bit before it is passed, I suspect the setbacks combined with the widespread opposition to turbines from those living in the area will kill any plans to place wind turbines in Jasper County.
The Commission then turned to a flood plain amendment that is basically mandated by FEMA. The Rensselaer City Council had passed this rather quickly earlier in the evening, but there was more discussion at the Planning Commission. The vote to send it to the Commissioners with a recommendation was 7-1.
The final item on the agenda was a ordinance for solar energy systems (solar parks) but it had not been properly advertised so could not be discussed. It will be on the agenda for the December 17th meeting. (The Plan Commission and BZA will probably be moving their meetings next year from the fourth to the third Monday of the month.)
The first tree for the Christmas Tree Walk in Potawatomie Park was up on Wednesday. It featured decorations about Alzheimer's Disease awareness. The trees will be lit after the Christmas Parade on Saturday afternoon.
A few more ash trees were being cut down in Weston Cemetery on Wednesday. The west part of the cemetery looks very different now than what it looked like a few years ago.