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ANDERSON — As was anticipated, the opponents of the proposed Lone Oak Solar Energy Center have filed a second lawsuit against the Madison County Board of Zoning Appeals.

The BZA has twice voted for the $110 million project that is expected to generate 120 megawatts of electricity in northern Madison County.

The Madison County Council voted last month to deny a requested tax abatement for project developer Invenergy. The company has since announced it is delaying the start of construction.

Both lawsuits filed by the opponents of the project concern votes cast by members of the Board of Zoning Appeals and say the decisions were arbitrary and capricious.

The second lawsuit was filed last week in Madison Circuit Court Division 6 requesting a judicial review to reverse the two votes approving special use for the 1,200-acre project.

The initial 850-acre special use was approved in May which included a 500-foot setback from non-participating property owners and a second for an additional 350 acres in September.

The newest lawsuit states that Mary Jane Baker, chairwoman of the BZA, recused herself during the May vote because of an alleged conflict of interest.

Baker cast the deciding vote at the September meeting for the second special use.

“Despite her acknowledged conflict of interest, BZA member, Mary Jane Baker, cast the deciding vote,” the lawsuit reads. “She cast her vote despite acknowledging that ‘we don’t know’ how the Solar Farm will affect home values.

“The same conflict of interest upon which she recused herself from the original application, should have prevented her from voting on the subsequent applications,” it continued.

The lawsuit wants Baker’s vote disregarded.

The opponents have already filed an appeal in Madison Circuit Court Division 6 alleging the first vote was not legal because BZA member Beth Vansickle was not a resident of the county. She served on the BZA because of her job with the Purdue Extension office.

The lawsuit states that the original attorney for the BZA, Jeff Graham, agreed that Vansickle’s vote did not count and a revote on the initial applications should take place with a new board.

But a new attorney hired by the BZA said that no revote was required on the approval of the first application by Invenergy, developer of the project.

At the September BZA meeting the opponents presented evidence that property values could be affected, potential damage to the environment and there could be increased flooding, the lawsuit states.

At that meeting Invenergy officials presented testimony that property values would not be impacted, there would be no chance for increased flooding in the watershed and there was no toxic materials that would leech into the soil.

The company contended that in 35 years the ground could again return to an agricultural use.

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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