The Pulaski County Commissioners have agreed to hire an outside attorney to help update the county’s wind turbine regulations, but not before discussing the issue with residents for over an hour Monday. The extra legal help was recommended by County Attorney Kevin Tankersley and Community Development Commission Executive Director Nathan Origer.
Tankersley said he wasn’t confident writing an ordinance with such long-ranging implications on his own, so they’ve found an attorney who specializes in the topic. “He thought he could review our ordinance, give us insight, and help us rewrite it for about $3,500, and Nathan has that in his budget,” Tankersley explained. “So, with your permission, I’d like to get him on board.”
What changes should be included would ultimately be up to the county’s plan commission, as well as the board of commissioners. But Origer said he is researching a few options, “Possibly noise issues, flicker issues to the best that can be addressed. The biggest thing, I think, is the setback distances, figuring out a setback distance that is based on scientific research and not what the county before us did, which is what a lot of our setbacks look like.”
Some residents in attendance Monday weren’t convinced that an outside attorney was needed. Commissioner Mike McClure agreed with them, at first. “I’d rather see an engineer than an attorney,” he said.
“It makes no sense, but okay,” Tankersley replied.
Commissioner Jerry Locke wanted to move ahead with hiring the attorney and made a motion to that effect a couple of times. “I’m going to make a motion to hire attorney,” Locke said, “and we as a planning commission, [Building Inspector] Doug [Hoover], Nathan, everybody involved, sends this attorney to review what we think should be done and review our existing ordinances.” That second motion was approved unanimously.
Origer said the plan is to have the proposed changes ready to be released to the public around May 4. The county plan commission would hold a public hearing and vote on the changes on May 29. Then, the county commissioners would make a final decision in June.
Meanwhile, several Pulaski County and Francesville officials are expected to meet privately today with representatives from wind energy developer RES. When asked why the discussion isn’t open to the public or the media, Origer said it’s the same process that’s used for any company interested in developing in Pulaski County. “There will be public revelations, but this is the first time that anyone affiliated with the county other than one unexpected meeting I had is going to actually hear from the horse’s mouth,” he said. “In order to make the most responsible decisions possible, the county has to be able to get in front of this and hear what the company actually says.”
Those expected to be in attendance include county plan commission members Jerry Locke, Mike Tiede, and Jim Thompson; County Building Inspector and Plan Administrator Doug Hoover; and possibly Francesville Clerk-Treasurer Linda Bennett, a Francesville Town Council member, County Attorney Kevin Tankersley, and Francesville Town Attorney Justin Schramm.
County officials told those in attendance Monday that they’re trying to represent the whole county when making decisions on wind turbines. They added that while most of those voicing opinions during public meetings oppose wind turbine development, they’ve also heard from people who want it.