GOSHEN — An Indiana House Bill that if passed would remove the ability of local citizens to determine the conditions under which wind and solar energy projects are allowed in their communities got the cold shoulder from members of the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners on Monday.

At their meeting, board members passed a resolution expressing opposition to HB 1381: Commercial wind and solar standards and siting, which is currently pending in the Indiana General Assembly. The bill is authored by Republican Rep. Ed Soliday of Valparaiso.

In Indiana, a policy known as “home rule” grants Indiana counties, cites 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, for example, they first have to get permission from the county’s board of commissioners.

But according to Suzie Weirick, president of the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners, HB 1381 would essentially eliminate home rule when it comes to solar and wind farm installations, allowing such projects to be permitted regardless of what county commissioners and their constituents say.

“House Bill 1381 mandates standard solar and wind farm installation requirements, eliminating local residents’ input regarding those installations,” Weirick said of the bill. “Local communities’ rights, down to the individual landowner, should always have a say in what is built and operated in and around their property. Today’s unanimous resolution to support these important rights reflects the Elkhart County Commissioners’ desire to protect individual property rights. It’s important to allow residents to participate in the decisions to install these large facilities in their communities.”

According to Weirick, there are currently no pending wind farm proposals in Elkhart County.

“We have had more discussions with the solar side of alternative power, and those are definitely where we involve the local community and make sure that the property owners have their say, for or against,” Weirick said during a phone call Tuesday afternoon. “With the wind side, we have not in Elkhart County had a lot of conversations, because there have just not been a lot of requests, and Elkhart County supposedly may not be conducive to that type of situation.”
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