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March 2, 2012

Eastern files for turbine variance

Board awaiting results of remonstrance process

Eastern Howard Schools officials filed paperwork Friday to move ahead on a $5.2 million wind turbine project, a day after a contentious school board meeting.

Thursday, Eastern board president Matt Adams said the board will pull the plug on the project if remonstrators get more than 100 valid signatures on a petition.

Greentown resident Susie Cox, who is leading the remonstrance along with her husband, Jeff, said Thursday that opponents of the project already have “more than enough” signatures.

Jeff Cox said Friday he expects to file the petition signatures possibly as soon as the first part of next week. The opponents have until March 12 to collect signatures.

But as school officials await the outcome of the petition drive, they’re moving ahead with steps needed to build the turbine.

They filed an application for a zoning variance Friday with the Kokomo-Howard County Plan Commission, and paid a $250 filing fee.

Eastern superintendent Tracy Caddell indicated filing for the variance doesn’t change anything.

“As stated ... the school corporation will abandon the project if the opposition obtains enough signatures to trigger the petition-remonstrance process,” Caddell said. “The filing of the variance is a non-issue.”

Technically, the opponents would only trigger the second phase of the petition process if they get 100 valid signatures by the deadline.

But school officials have indicated they won’t pursue the second phase, which would involve both sides obtaining as many signatures as possible in a “majority wins” contest, if the opponents get the 100 signatures.

By filing the variance application, school officials are asking the Howard County Board of Zoning Appeals to amend the setback requirements for the turbine.

The county’s zoning ordinance requires a setback of one mile from any residential housing for a wind turbine like the one Eastern is considering. Six neighborhoods are within one mile of the location school officials have chosen for the project.

Unless school officials cancel their application, it would go before the county BZA at 7 p.m. March 27 in the hearing room of the Howard County Government Center, 120 E. Mulberry St.

• Scott Smith is a Kokomo Tribune staff writer. He may be reached at 765-454-8569 or via email at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com

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