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Porter County launches search for development director as solar efforts remain on hold

Lauren Chapman
IPB News

The proposed Malden Solar farm appears to be dead, at least for now. Developer NextEra Energy Resources did not appeal Porter County's rejection of its application before the deadline, according to County Attorney Scott McClure.

"I'm hesitant to always say 100-percent something is closed, but I believe that, definitely on the issue of their application being complete or incomplete and whether they're under the old ordinance, I believe, is closed at this point in time," McClure told the county commissioners Monday.

Because the county commissioners have since repealed the county's solar ordinance, commercial solar farms are not currently allowed in any zoning classification. That means any potential developer would have to make its case for a variance to the board of zoning appeals. A new set of solar regulations had been expected this fall, but on Monday, the commissioners directed the plan commission to hold off until a new development and stormwater director is hired.

Still, Commissioner Jim Biggs said he's fine with the current setup. "I see no reason to make any change," Biggs said.

Meanwhile, Porter County is launching a nationwide search for a new development and stormwater director. The commissioners agreed to hire Organizational Solutions Development to conduct the search, at a cost of up to $11,500, plus up to $5,000 for candidate relocation expenses. Bob Thompson resigned from the position, following criticism over his handling of the Malden Solar project and development of the previous solar ordinance. On Monday, Commissioner Biggs complained that Thompson drafted an ordinance that he said was intentionally friendly to NextEra.

"I will not tolerate that sort of thing. We can't — because that spoils everything in this building," Biggs told meeting attendees. "You want to make me out the bad guy, really? Wow. Well, I'll be the bad guy. If it means doing my job, I'll be the bad guy."