Location of Jay County, Indiana
From The Commercial Review Friday, August 9, 2019
By RAY COONEY
An updated wind farm ordinance and a new solar ordinance are moving forward.
Jay County Plan Commission on Thursday OK’d minor changes and voted to advance the proposed ordinances that have been in the works for more than a year.
Plan commission also OK’d a variety of other additions and amendments to the county zoning ordinance.
The new ordinances and changes still have to go through several steps before going into effect.
They will be subject to a public hearing — it is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 12 in the auditorium at Jay County Courthouse — before the plan commission votes.
If passed, they would then move on to Jay County Commissioners for final approval.
Changes to the proposed wind farm and solar farm ordinances OK’d Thursday included updated language in the road use agreement noting that equipment such as transition lines would not be allowed to be constructed in any county right-of-way or easement without prior written approval.
The new wind farm ordinance, which was first presented in March after being hashed out by a seven-member study committee, is twice as long as the seven-page original that was put in place more than a decade ago.
Among the proposed changes are the following turbine setback increases and additions:
- 1.5 times the height of the turbine away from the property line of non-participating landowners, up from the current 350 feet or 1.1 times the height of the turbine.
- 1,500 feet from residential dwellings for non-participating landowners, up from the current 1,000 feet.
- 1,500 feet from any church, school, business or public building. S
- One-half mile from any nature preserve, park or recreational use area.
The updated ordinance also notes that any buried cable must be at least 5 feet deep, with warning mesh at 3 feet. Cables would also have to be marked at road crossings, creeks, river beds and property lines.
Also addressed is shadow flicker — the shadow produced by the rotating blades — with a requirement that the wind farm operator must take “reasonable steps” to minimize the impact upon receiving a written complaint from a landowner.
Plan commission, via the study committee, has been reviewing the county’s wind farm ordinance since last summer after Jay County Commissioners followed its recommendation to impose a three-year moratorium on such developments in response to opposition of Scout Clean Energy’s proposal for Bitter Ridge Wind Farm. (The construction process is getting underway this week on that project, which moved forward under existing rules. It is scheduled to go online in September 2020.)
The most extensive discussion on the solar ordinance Thursday was regarding the section regarding whether or not to allow those who install personal solar energy systems to sell energy to offsite users. The proposed ordinance now states that power created from such systems is for “on-site use only by the owner.” Language addressing net metering — connecting to a public-utility power grid to transfer surplus power — was deleted.
The other significant addition was setting a permit fee of $1,750 per megawatt hour, which matches the wind farm ordinance.
Proposed changes to other sections of the county zoning ordinance that were advanced Thursday include:
- Deleting a section of the ordinance regarding urban residential districts, none of which exist in Jay County.
- A requirement that all new homes must have more than 950 square feet of occupied space. (The current ordinance does not include size requirements.)
- The addition of a section about conflicts of interest, the language of which mirrors state code.
- An increase in setbacks for ponds to 75 feet from a road right of way, up from the current 50 feet.
- Clarification that the sections of the ordinance directly addressing small wind energy systems, commercial wind farms and solar energy systems supersede other sections of the ordinance when addressing such developments.
Copies of the proposed changes to the Jay County Zoning Ordinance are as follows: