There is a very rough draft on Henry County’s website of what a solar ordinance might one day look like.

The Henry County Planning Commission started talking about local rules on solar energy development before COVID-19 hobbled government meetings.

Draft solar ordinance

Zoning Administrator Darrin Jacobs gave the planners a rough draft solar ordinance June 18 when they were finally able to meet face-to-face at the Henry County Arts Park.

Jacobs based the draft on multiple solar ordinances from around Indiana and best practices suggested by renewable energy advocate organizations.

“It’s an idea of what a solar ordinance might look like,” he said. “At this time, it is not being proposed to the planning commission to be adopted.”

Instead, this rough draft is a sort of framework to start the conversation.

The planning commission discussed last week whether to individually draft their own ordinances or form a committee to draft an ordinance. In the end, they chose to move forward with what was presented.

The draft ordinance is available to the public online at henryco.net/PlanningCommission.aspx, under the “Upcoming Cases” link (http://henryco.net/attachments/Henry percent20County percent20Draft percent20Solar percent20Ordinance.pdf).

The Henry County Planning Commission will have special meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, to hear community feedback on the draft ordinance.

Jacobs said that meeting will be “listening session” for the planning commission.

“It will be an opportunity for the planning commission to hear pros and cons of solar energy systems,” he said.

The meeting will take place in the Henry County Courthouse, 101 S. Main St., New Castle

Telecom amendment

The planning commission is also looking at an amendment to the Henry County Development Code that will make it easier for some property owners to put up cell towers.

Henry County has partnered with neighboring counties in the Eastern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (EIRPC). The EIRPC wants to get all the communities in its region designated “Broadband Ready” by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

In order to be considered “Broadband Ready,” each county will need to streamline their approval process for wireless communication towers applications.

“Right now, they need a commission-approved use to put up a tower anywhere,” Jacobs said.

The commission-approved use (CAU) process requires a public hearing and certain other timeline requirements.

Broadband Ready Communities have to be able to approve or deny a cell tower request within 10 days.

The proposed Wireless Communications Amendment is also available for the public to read online through the planning commission’s website (http://henryco.net/attachments/Wireless percent20Communication percent20Amendment.pdf).

The amendment would allow wireless telecommunications (telecom) facilities as a permitted use in most zoning districts in Henry County. No public hearing would be required on those telecom projects if the code is changed.

Jacobs said the cell tower projects would still need to meet all of Henry County’s standards when it comes to defined setbacks, height restrictions, etc.

Rush County and Wayne County have already passed similar amendments, he said.

The planning commission reviewed the telecom changes and voted to have a public hearing on the changes at the next regular meeting July 16.

Other business

In other business, the planning commission approved a home occupation permit request for “Kaycie’s Creature Camp” on W. County Road 100S, a rezone request for a new business on Mercer Street in Spiceland and a rezone request on High Street in Middletown.

The Middletown rezone was done to fix a previous mistake and clean up zoning on that parcel. The request will now go to the Middletown Town Council for final approval.

The planning commission also approved the budget for 2021 and agreed to waive planning fees on the new Henry County jail project.

The Henry County Planning Commission meets again at 5 p.m. Thursday, July 16, in the Henry County Courthouse, 101 S. Main St., New Castle.