During the County Commissioner’s meeting this week, County Attorney Jim Clevenger commented on the actions of the County Council on Thursday, June 13th

He received several calls from concerned citizens asking if the County Council could deny the additional appropriation requests of County Plan Director Ty Adley for printing and advertising along with legal services and require him to present his requests for advertising to County President Jesse Bohannon for approval and then the council would pay for the required advertising costs out of their budget. 

The attorney’s original response was that he needed to do additional research and investigation although his initial reaction was, “No I don’t know how they can do that. I don’t know how a county can tell landowners that the proposed use of their land requires a BZA hearing approval and then make it such that the landowner can’t even seek that approval.  That’s how this looks like it’s getting set up.” 

The county attorney did view the online meeting and said he has additional questions including the council comment, “We have the statutory authority to do something.”  He plans to check on that comment specifically.  Clevenger went on to say, “I’m not sure they have the authority to start dictating to the Plan Commission or the BZA on what they should be doing.”       

Jim Clevenger explained that an applicant pays a fee that covers the cost of the advertisement and holding the meeting.  There are state statutes on the timing that follow that application with scheduling a hearing.  He questioned if the county could receive the money and then not follow through. He said the Plan Commission and BZA can deny a request or put conditions on a request but for the council to not advertise they are not following the state statute process in place. 

Clevenger said the comment was made that the council was taking this action but if the commissioners put a moratorium on industrial solar this would go away.  He said, “What’s being done is not based on a financial situation, it’s just based on the fact that the council does not like what’s been going on.  It’s not that they don’t have the money to support the Plan Commission or BZA.  I don’t understand why the additional appropriation wasn’t approved just solely on those grounds.” He continued, “It looks to me like the County Council is trying to mess up this scheme because the commissioners don’t ban solar farms.” 

The county attorney questioned if some of the council’s activities were arbitrary and capricious and in his view their action was “inappropriate.  Whether it was unlawful or not, I still need to do some investigation.” 

If Tamarack Solar pays the application fee for a hearing Clevenger doesn’t think the county can’t take their money and not advertise for the request because the council won’t pay for it.

In closing Jim Clevenger said the actions of the County Council were unprecedented and not appropriate.  He also said he would be checking in on a couple of court cases on industrial solar and he thinks the 2025 general assembly will look at this because of the land use issue.  Clevenger will continue to investigate the council’s actions.