LOGO19 County Government.jpg

ANDERSON – For the second time since July the Madison County commissioners are making changes to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The commissioners on Monday named Fall Creek Township resident Curt Stephenson as the replacement for Don Pine on the BZA.

Following the meeting, Kelly Gaskill, president of the Board of County Commissioners, said Pine was appointed to the BZA by previous commissioners and his term ended Dec. 31, 2018.

She said the commissioners learned that Pine’s term on the BZA had expired when they were researching the membership of Beth Vansickle in July.

Commissioner Mike Phipps said they were reviewing all the appointments to the various county boards and commissions, many of which are vacant.

During public comments, Katya Samoteskul, project manager for Invenergy, said the company was concerned about the changes being made to the BZA.

“This has been a long and contentious process with the BZA,” she said about the company's proposed solar farm in northern Madison County. “Not sure there will be a fair and unbiased hearing. There were hours of testimony presented.”

Several opponents of the solar farm again voiced concerns about the loss of property values, possible pollution from chemicals used in the solar panels and the loss of farm land.

One resident said the company has been discussing the project with county officials for several years and the residents only learned about the proposed solar farm in March.

The commissioners appointed Cody Bohlander to the BZA in July to replace longtime member John Simmermon, whose term had also expired on Jan. 1.

At the time, Gaskill said the commissioners were not aware that Simmermon’s term had expired until David Kane was named to replace Beth Vansickle, who didn’t reside in or own property in Madison County.

With Kane and Bohlander's appointments to the BZA, it resulted in four of the five members residing in Pipe Creek Township.

Pine’s replacement by Stephenson reduces the number of BZA members from Pipe Creek Township to three. Stephenson and Jerry Stamm are the two members who don’t reside in the township.

The BZA is scheduled to vote on a special exception for the proposed 120-megawatt, $110 million Lone Oak Solar Farm proposed by Invenergy on Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. The project site is predominately in Pipe Creek Township.

Earlier this year the BZA voted 3-1 to approve a special use for the solar farm with the additional requirements of a 500-foot setback from non-participating property owners.

Pine cast the no vote.

Vansickle's affirmative vote was nullified later after it was alleged she was not a legal member of the BZA.

That meant the vote to approve the special exception didn’t have the necessary three votes.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.