The Press-Dispatch

August 5, 2020

The Press-Dispatch

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A-6 Wednesday, August 5, 2020 The Press-Dispatch EAST GIBSON Submit East Gibson news items: Call: 812-354-8500 Email: or bring in a hard copy: 820 E. Poplar Street, Petersburg Women's Wellness Fair S E P T E M B E R 1 , 2 0 2 0 G O O D S A M A R I T A N ' S Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's Women's Wellness Fair will be by appointment only and will be limited to just 75 women per hour. Wearing a mask will be required. To help accommodate our usual attendance amount we have added three additional morning hours to our event. Also, to help with social distancing, the wellness fair will have limited booths that will offer the following diagnostic health screenings: blood draw, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, bone density and colorectal take-home kits. H I G H L A N D W O O D S C O M M U N I T Y C E N T E R 1 3 7 7 S . H A R T S T R E E T | V I N C E N N E S , I N 7 T O 1 0 A . M . and 4 T O 7 P. M . ( E S T ) Make an appointment today by visiting or calling 812-885-3336. Appointments will be accepted until August 24. LOUIE CAMPBELL Sales Professional CALL OR TEXT 812-899-6267 @LouieYourCarGuy HWY. 64 W. • PRINCETON "Quite Simply, A Better Experience!" Looking for a Great Deal On Your Next Vehicle? Final public hearing airs county's property rights concerns Coal industry out in force to oppose zoning regs By Janice Barniak and Andy Heuring Gibson County Area Plan- ning Commission met July 29 for the final public hearing be- fore they will presumably vote on a county-wide zoning ordi- nance, and while members on all sides of the property de- bate showed up for the event, the coal industry also used the hearing as a last attempt to sway board members to ex- empt mining from additional regulations. COAL According to the coal indus- try members, enacting the cur- rent zoning ordinance will dull the county's competitive edge in the coal industry. Attorney Chad Sullivan, with Jackson Kelly, represented Gib- son County Coal and Peabody Coal, companies he said em- ploy hundreds of workers in Gibson County. Gibson Coun- ty, he said, is the state's top producer of coal, and coal ac- counts for 60 percent of the state's electricity generation. Of the eight top-produc- ing counties for coal, three of those have zoning, he said. Moreover, he believed the zon- ing proposed was more strin- gent than other top-producing coal counties. "If you pass this, you will have the most anti-coal or most restrictive ordinance of any county in Indiana," he said, adding it would risk local jobs and even potentially be a viola- tion of Indiana Code. Gibson County Coal General Manager Chris Hopple estimat- ed the coal company spent ap- proximately $43 million in ar- ea wages last year. Twenty-five percent of employees are from Gibson County, including him- self, and he said he did not be- lieve coal needed more regu- lation, considering the feder- al and state permits they al- ready work to get approved by agencies that employ experts in their fields to look at what the mines will be doing. They have 821 active leases and mail out 1,269 checks for approximately $10 million to landowners annually. Environmental Engineer Blake Cutrell also stressed the regulation already in the coal industry, detailing the per- mitting processes, which cov- er roads, wildlife/endangered species, water protection and more. "Gibson County Coal urg- es you to exempt coal from the zoning ordinance," he said. He said the coal has been mined for more than 100 years without zoning and given generations of families reliable income. He addressed a comment from earlier meetings that coal was asking to be treated differ- ently than other energy com- panies in the ordinance; he ar- gued coal is already treated dif- ferently at every level of govern- ment by being one of the most highly regulated industries in the United States. "As one of the counties that doesn't possess a zoning ordi- nance, it needs to stay without it." Bruce Stephens, president of the Indiana Coal Association, reiterated the comments of ear- lier coal representatives. "Producers and member companies continue to say what a wonderful place Gib- son County has been to oper- ate in," he said, then worried that would "evaporate with this zoning ordinance." Peabody Director of Envi- ronmental Operations James Boswell told the board mining permits already require pub- lic notification and public com- ment. "Our operations maintain an exemplary level of compliance. Adding another level is unnec- essary and adds ample costs and delays to our business," he said. "Peabody opposes the Gibson County ordinance." Brad Rigsby, who manages the Francisco Peabody mine and is a lifelong miner, spoke against zoning because the company would have to ask per- mission to expand or replace certain operations at their cur- rent location. He said the ordi- nance would make the county less competitive in the coal in- dustry. Tim Goad, who has land leased to coal mining, spoke against zoning. "I don't want anything do- ne in this ordinance that will stop mines...If that is done, you have basically stolen my retire- ment," he said. AGRICULTURE Attorney John Molitor rep- resented clients in the ag in- dustry. He told the board that zoning is the timeshare of or- dinances—once passed, it's a continued expense on a regular basis, with legal fees and con- sulting fees to keep it current, and because people will likely sue if passed in a county where people don't want it. "It may be a good thing for someone who is rich to buy a timeshare who can afford to go each year. The little guy doesn't really have the ability to do that," he said. People in a rural area are going to con- tinually find they don't want it, and only out-of-state develop- ers will truly benefit, he said. Retired Dept. of Agricul- ture worker Gary Seibert told the board he'd seen zoning at work in other places. "This is not what we want. In the years I spent working ev- erywhere, I have never seen zoning protect ag. It didn't take long to figure that out in Vanderburgh works in some of your cities, but it doesn't in rural areas." Fort Branch's Chamberlain Farms owner David Chamber- lain said it was his first time be- fore the group; he said he had three minutes to speak but a lifetime he would have to live under the ordinance if passed. "This is being done while we are battling a terrible pan- demic. My 81-year-old parents are not here because of health issues. They're also opposing zoning," he said. He said his concern is small businesses often grow out of garages, for example, the way Apple did when started by Steve Jobs. Chamberlain had gone over his time and APC President Steve Obert asked for depu- ties, first when Chamberlain told the board they weren't lis- tening to him, and then when Chamberlain went over time, Obert cut him off and deputies stepped forward. Larry Michel, from Fort Branch, said Gibson County was basically an agricultural community before Toyota ar- rived in 1997. "We hear about economic de- velopment...agriculture is eco- nomic development," he said. "I feel for the people with the windmill situation." Dave McKinney said many farmers see alternative ener- gy as supplemental income for ag—when he visits other coun- ties with windmills, they seem to like them. "I have a friend up there. He had one windmill in front of his home and one behind it. He sees it as his retirement plan." He said putting the setback at 4.4 times the height of the turbine is too much. "You have told the windmill industry to get the hell out of here," he said. "In 20 years, you will regret that." McKinney said he's signed a contract with a solar company to lease 44 acres south of Fran- cisco, and the zoning would di- rectly affect him because of the 25 -foot setback for solar the zoning mandate. "I'm getting paid by what acreage those people can use. A 25 -foot setback amounts to nearly four acres. That will cost me $ 92,000 over 30 years. If it goes 50 are tak- ing $162,000 out of my pockets or my grandkids'. I don't think people are going to put up with that." PROPERTY OWNERS Property owner Brad Mey- er asked the board not to take away his and his family's rights with zoning, despite being strongly opposed to wind tur- bines. He said he could not afford the time and the costs associ- ated with zoning. "I feel it is as a Trojan horse for tyranny. Taxation with- out representation," he said. "Which of you was publicly elected to make decisions on what can be done to private and public lands? " He said he was disappoint- ed zoning had been brought back for a decision (after the 2018 decision to end the zon- ing push). Forty-year Gibson County resident Terry Unfried spoke against zoning and also spoke against an unelected board drafting the ordinance, call- ing it taxation without repre- sentation. "What is this bureaucracy going to cost? I have been told it will be supported by fees." He pointed to the primary election, in which Steve Bot- toms, incumbent commission- er, was defeated for the Repub- lican nomination, as an indica- tion of where the public's feel- ings were on zoning. "It reminds me of the saying by government bureaucracy, 'Let's pass this bill so we can see what it contains.'" Mary McKinney said she felt the questions she asked about zoning weren't answered. Warren Fleetwood came as the Union Township Adviso- ry Board representative, say- ing constituents were con- cerned that if they wanted to start home-based businesses, it wouldn't be allowed if people could tell business was going on from the outside. "We have good neighbors, but we also have neighbors who notice things," he said, adding people like to sell cinnamon rolls or give baseball lessons. The board said they'd changed that provision. Clay Pflug was another that believed an elected board should be hearing their con- cerns. He was concerned CR 250 S. is zoned residential when he said the grain and feed stor- age should have indicated to the board it was an agriculture district. He also said that if Fleet- wood, who is running for com- missioner, is elected in No- vember, the ordinance would be rescinded anyway, as there would be two no-zoning candi- dates out of three commission- ers—a majority. "Why don't we put the mora- torium on this kangaroo court," he said. Paul Smith said he had is- sues with the money spent. "I just wonder how spending $ 300,000 has benefited the residents of Gibson County," he said. "We haven't seen any- thing done to help our roads or quality of life...Gibson has been free for a long time without all these regulations. Why can't they continue? " Tom White said he believed Purdue and Farm Bureau were out to take their rights away. "Those who have the gold make the rules, and the rest of us have to put up with it." Jeff Seibert said the first zon- ing push was said to be a way to protect from an adult book- stores that did not materialize; now he sees it as moving for- ward solely because of wind- mills. "I'm sure it is hard to come up with a plan to keep out what- ever scary thing might come to town," he said. "I can't be the only one who thinks it is iron- ic we are here during a pan- demic, exposing ourselves, to talk about protecting ourselves from danger." He said the whole coun- ty should be protected from things that cause injuries, emit fumes and make noise. "In case you haven't figured this out, I'm talking about truck stops. They have all the risks and dangers of windmills," he said. "How can you hold the windmills to such high stan- dards and not protect residents from truck stops? " Dan Lefler and Bob Schleter both spoke against zoning be- cause of the cost. "We had several folks from the coal industry. If these folks get special privileges as far as zoning goes, I would ask for the same privileges they get," Schleter said. "It should be no zoning for my property as well." GIBSON COUNTY WIND Dr. Kent Scheller, phys- ics professor from Haubstadt, stressed that fruitful coun- ties have used zoning to bene- fit their economy, resulting in more jobs, but more important- ly, that the language protecting the Doppler from windmill in- terference will help ordinary citizens by setting the turbines farther back from the property lines and by requiring the com- pany to decommission the tur- bines, which will prevent the county from being stuck with the bill for bringing down the structures. Zoning will stop wind tur- bines from operating during inclement weather conditions. "Residents should not be ex- pected to compromise health and safety to benefit outside developments," he said. Scheller said he was dis- appointed to hear reports of threats against commissioners. "If coercion and threats of vi- olence are made against public are on the wrong side of right and wrong. This isn't the type of Gibson Coun- ty I know." Jeanie Bittner wanted the or- dinance to be strict enough to protect Doppler radar, property values and more. She reiterat- ed decommissioning concerns, and said new business can have benefits for a few people, but risks for many. Les Kiesel, of Haubstadt, said the commissioners had not wanted to bring back zon- ing for consideration. "We approached the com- missioners with this, they didn't want to touch it. Basical- ly it was, 'Where the heck were you a year ago? ' I'm one of the people who will lose my rights if the St. Louis Arch moves in on three sides of my property." ( Wind turbine heights have been proposed at heights simi- lar to the arch). He said people have accused zoning of being moved along in secret, and that it wasn't true, as he had been to countless meetings. He said as far as people say- ing that the election of a no-zon- ing commissioner meant that Gibson County is against zon- ing, that he disagreed, because with four no-zoning candidates on the ballot, only one won, and by only 64 votes. Mark Adler spoke in favor of zoning to protect Doppler ra- dar and landowners like him, who are adjacent, but who don't have contracts with the wind energy companies. "We need the zoning to pro- tect us from those encroaching on our safety," he said. Sarah Hasenour called wind turbines irresponsible develop- ment. "We know zoning is our on- ly means of protection," she said. "We are desperate to pro- tect the little guy...My family is as little guy as it gets. We talk about freedom, but we will open the door to an overseas billion dollar profiteer who wants to dictate how we use our land for 50 years." FINAL MEETING Obert opened a few minutes at the end for the board to talk about anything they had heard that might be different or com- pelling. "I think a few things. We need to take a look at some of the coal ordinances. I think we need to have a clarification on the solar setbacks," he said. April Graper said she wanted to talk to Fleetwood more about his concerns. Obert said he thought there might be a misconception that when something in the ordi- nance was said to be permit- ted, that meant it was allowed, not that you needed a permit. He also said when they hear complaints, it seems to be about Vanderburgh County, not Posey, Knox or Daviess. The next meeting is 6 p.m. Aug. 12, with the intention to make a final decision and vote on the ordinance at the Toyota Events Center. Bob Sloan, of Francisco, and David Doughty, of Ow- ensville, look at a zoning map and discuss what effect it will have, prior to the Area Planning Commission meeting last Wednesday night. APC Chairman Steve Obert said this was the last meeting they would have for public comment. At their next meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. August 12, he said he expects the planning commission to discuss the plan and then take a vote on whether or not to recommend the plan be sent to the county commissioners. The commissioners would then have to decide whether or not to enact the pro- posed planning ordinance. David Chamberlain, of Ft. Branch, and Scott Garrett, of Owensville, hold "No Zoning" signs outside the Toyota Convention Center at the Gibson County Fair- grounds prior to the Area Planning Commission's public hearing on the zoning or- dinance last Wednesday.

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