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Planning Commission votes 'no recommendation' on WECS ordinance

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

The Henry County Planning Commission heard nearly three and a half hours of public comments on a wind turbine ordinance Tuesday night before handing the hot potato back to the Henry County Commissioners.

The planning commission held a special public hearing Tuesday evening to give everyone who wanted it the chance to comment on a proposed amendment to the Henry County Development Code.

The proposed changes came in two parts.

First, there was a proposal from the Henry County Commissioners to update the “Utilities” section of the Henry County Code with new regulations for wind energy conversion systems (WECS).

The second proposal was that the Henry County Code be officially updated to explicitly allow the Henry County Planning Commission to grant Commission Approved Uses (CAUs) as they saw fit, within the bounds of the development code itself.

Of the 44 people who spoke against the proposed WECS ordinance, none mentioned the resolution to update the CAU provision in the development code.

The planning commission had three choices Tuesday, according to attorney Sean Row.

“The options that are available to the planning commission tonight are to either send the proposals back to the commissioners with a Favorable Response or with an Unfavorable Response or with No Response,” Row said.

Planning commission president Steve Rust allowed each speaker five minutes to discuss the proposed changes. He put no limitation on the number of speakers and no time limitation on the meeting itself.

The final speaker finished their comments at 8:25 p.m., just shy of the 3.5 hour mark.

Before any motion was made, planning commission member Dale Cole said he hoped the commission would end the night with some definitive decision on the WECS ordinance amendment.

Fellow planning commission member Robin Fleming agreed that the planning commission needed to make a clear decision either in favor of or against the county commissioner’s recommendation.

Olene Veach made a motion of “No Response” on the proposed WECS amendment. Rachel Clark seconded.

There was some discussion over exactly what Veach meant before the commission voted.

Veach explained that she wanted the planning commission to take no action on the proposal one way or the other. She hopes the county commissioners will look at the proposed setbacks and make changes before passing it into law.

Veach’s motion passed with a 5-4 vote. Dale Cole, Robin Fleming, Dan Roach and Larry Brayton voted against.

On the second part of the resolution, which codifies the Henry County Planning Commission’s authority to grant CAUs, Cole made a motion for a “Favorable Response.” Roach seconded.

That vote passed 7-2, with Fleming and Brayton voting against.

Zoning Administrator Darrin Jacobs presented the outcome Tuesday’s meeting to the Henry County Commissioners Wednesday.

“My understanding is that, with no recommendation for the Planning Commission, the Commissioners will need to take a final vote on the ordinance in order for it to take effect,” Jacobs said.

Coverage of the Henry County Commissioners meeting will be in Friday’s edition of The Courier-Times.