Sunset wind turbines

Photo by Michael Johnson

The sun sets as wind turbines continue to spin Saturday evening.

REMINGTON — The Remington Town Council is among a growing list of government entities opposing a bill in the General Assembly that would overrule local decision-making when it comes to industrial wind and solar projects.

During its most recent meeting, the town council asked its town attorney, Rebecca Goddard, to draft a resolution in opposition to state House Bill 1381, which establishes “default” siting standards for wind and solar energy projects and essentially prevents local governments from banning the construction of renewable energy sources.

“I know that you have discussed in the past some feelings you may have about windmills, and how you feel about those being inside the buffer zone around the town of Remington,” Goddard told the town council. “I spoke with Newton County’s attorney, Pat Ryan, and he wanted me to let you all know that the Newton County Commissioners enacted a resolution that expresses their support of local control for those land use decisions, rather than made at a state level.”

In Indiana, a policy known as “home rule” grants Indiana counties, cities and towns “all the powers that they need for the effective operation of government as to local affairs,” according to Indiana Code 36-1-3-2.

Under home rule, if a company wants to build wind turbines in an Indiana county, they first must obtain permission from the county’s board of commissioners. If passed, HB 1381 would eliminate home rule when it comes to wind and solar farm installations, permitting those projects to proceed under state regulations, regardless of input from local elected officials and their constituents.

Remington currently has a corporate buffer zone that extends two miles around the corporate limits. Town officials are awaiting new zoning maps from the town’s most recent annexation.

Jasper County Commissioners also recently signed a resolution in opposition to HB 1381 and supporting local control. In 2019, The commissioners passed a wind ordinance that is currently more restrictive than what House Bill 1381 would provide.

The county commissioners have also approved a two-phase solar array project — the first portion of which is scheduled to be completed this year. The second phase is slated for completion in 2023.

“Our thought process on this is, we are trying to protect our area,” town council President Susie Flickner said. “It’s not that we are opposed to this development; it’s just protecting our corporate limits for future investments of anything that could throw a wrench in having something that would be legitimate to anything in the corporate limits. (The buffer zone is) just a protection for us.”

HB 1381 was authored by state Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) and co-authored by state Reps. Sharon Negele (R-Attica) and and Justin Moed (D-Indianapolis. It would establish statewide rules for the placement and technical details of wind and solar developments, and prohibit local governments from requiring anything beyond state standards.

Although supporters of the bill have said counties will still be allowed to permit and review the process, if a county denies a company that meets these standards, that company can appeal to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

Stephen Eastridge, Jasper County Economic Development’s executive director, said his organization is also opposed to the bill.

“We have concerns about the local competitive advantage to attract projects being eliminated by the bill and state oversight superseding local government on zoning and permitting,” he said. “Essentially, we are concerned that this will set a bad precedent for other types of projects and the state’s involvement in siting and permitting.”

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