Landowners sue Cass County over wind rules

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following was originally published online by the Logansport Pharos Tribune of Logansport, Indiana on Wednesday, January 24, 2018.)

Mitchell Kirk, Staff Reporter

Three Cass County property owners are suing the Cass County Commissioners over the county’s wind energy rules.

John L. Baker, Mike Gingerich and William Randall Cole filed the lawsuit against the commissioners on Jan. 17 in Cass Circuit Court. All three own agriculturally zoned land in Cass County, according to their complaint.

The complaint refers to Cass County’s wind energy conversion systems ordinance, which requires wind turbines to be at least 1,000 feet from homes. That means no homes can be constructed within 1,000 feet of wind turbines, which the complaint states “authorizes the taking of private property without compensation being paid.”

Cass County’s wind energy ordinance violates the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, according to the complaint, which states “private property shall not be taken for public use, without just compensation.” It also violates the Indiana Constitution, the complaint continues.

“Under Indiana law, setback requirements must be reasonable since they interfere with the enjoyment of property rights,” the complaint states.

The regulation’s measuring of setbacks from residences instead of property lines is “unreasonable,” according to the complaint, adding the ordinance “should be declared void.”

The complaint seeks a court order declaring Cass County’s wind energy ordinance to be void to the extent of its residential setback rule and that the setback should be measured instead from property lines.

The lawsuit comes as Renewable Energy Systems Americas out of Broomfield, Colorado, pursues a wind turbine project in northern Cass and Miami counties.

“Upon information and belief, the project will be located on property adjacent to the plaintiffs’ properties,” the complaint states.

Cass County Attorney Jeff Stanton responded to the lawsuit in an email Wednesday.

“The county asserts that the setbacks are, in fact, reasonable,” Stanton wrote.

He added Barnes & Thornburg’s Indianapolis office will likely represent Cass County in the case.

Baker, Gingerich and Cole are represented by Syracuse-based Snyder Morgan Federoff & Kuchmay LLP, according to their complaint.

Reach Mitchell Kirk at mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5130

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