ANDERSON – Several residents opposed to the proposed Lone Oak Solar Farm are seeking to have a local court overturn the approval of the project.

The appeal was filed in Madison Circuit Court Division 6 against the Madison County Board of Zoning Appeals, which voted 3-1 in May to approve a special use and two variances for the proposed solar farm in northern Madison County.

Jeff Graham, attorney for the BZA, said Thursday that they are reviewing the complaint and will file an initial response next week.

One of the allegations in the appeal request is that Beth Vansickle, a member of the Madison County Board of Zoning Appeals, is not a resident of the county but resides in Fortville.

The allegation states that the BZA rules require that a member is a resident of Madison County.

Vansickle was one of the three votes in support of the special use for the solar farm project and the two variances.

“If she is not a valid, legal member of the Board, her vote would be disqualified,” the court document reads. “There may exist conflicts of interest among (county) council, BZA members, and or planning commission members,” the document continues.

Graham said Vansickle has been replaced on the BZA by David Kane, who is currently reviewing all of the evidence that was presented when the special use for the Lone Oak Solar Farm was approved.

On July 30 the BZA, with Kane as the new member, will again be asked to vote on the special use exception and two variances, Graham said.

The attorney said the evidence for the request is closed following the several public hearings by the BZA before the May vote.

He said because Vansickle’s vote to approve was not valid the vote was 2-1, which means the request was neither approved or denied and required a minimum of three votes.

Another allegation is that the BZA amended the approval order following the May decision to allow Invenergy, developer of Lone Oak, to expand the project area by approximately 300 to 400 additional acres.

The allegation contends the petitioners do not know where the newly leased ground is located, how many additional residential properties are impacted and those property owners were denied due process because they were not notified of the potential impact.

The appeal also contends that the area for the solar farm project was designated as a revitalization area without any specific facts for the determination.

As a result of the expanded site for the proposed Lone Oak Solar Farm, the BZA will have to reconsider the request because the original 850 acres for the placement of the solar panels was reduced after the setback requirement was increased from 100 to 500 feet.

Invenergy wants to expand the site back to the original 850 acres for the $110 million project that will generate 120 megawatts of electricity.

The BZA-approved measure requires a 500-foot setback from non-participating residential structures and 200 feet from property lines. However, an agreed waiver between Lone Oak and each nonparticipating resident would make possible a setback of 250 feet from a residential structure and/or a property line setback of 100 feet.

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.

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