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Lookout Mountain residents fighting plan for wind turbines

Lookout Mountain residents near Ga. 157 have been contacted about a potential wind turbine farm being located in the area.

Residents were approached last week (Sept, 13-17) by a representative of Iberdrola Renewables, which claims to be the worldwide leader in wind turbines, with their turbines in 26 U.S. sites in 15 states, predominantly in the Midwest and West Coast.

The power company wants to build 120 wind turbines, which each measure 300 feet tall with 150-foot blades for a total height of 450 feet, making theme easily visible from nearby Mentone, Ala.

Eighty of the potential wind turbines are planned within Walker County, according to residents.

Calls to officials at Iberdrola Renewables on Tuesday were not returned.

Walker County commissioner Bebe Heiskell said she was only made aware of the project by Dade County officials in recent days.

“I suspect that the people on the mountain aren’t going to like this,” Heiskell said.

Heiskell and other county officials plan to take a closer look at the situation.

The plans have already raised the concern of area residents and a meeting has been planned for Saturday, Sept. 25, to “fight this incursion tooth and nail,” according to community flyer.

“We need every resource to go against a multi-billion-dollar corporation that has set its eye on an area they think is easy pickins,” the flyer reads, “Win now, or lose Lookout Mountain.”

The organizational meeting will be held at the residence of Pam Vila, one of the residents opposed to the project.

Vilas favors wind energy, but questions the impact this project would have on property values, along with the noise and light pollution the project brings to the tranquil area.

The turbines emit a “groaning noise” as the blades whirl through the air, according to the research residents have compiled. The units reach maximum output in 22-25 mph winds.

One resource for their concerns is wind-watch.org, a watchdog for the wind turbine industry.

Neighboring Mentone, Ala., has seen an increase in tourism in recent years, with tourists coming for the charming rural appeal along with numerous camps and rental properties nearby.

“This area is filled with cabins, bed and breakfasts, weekend and vacation houses that are here for the view. The economy of the area is dependant upon the view,” Harriet O’Rear said.

The local tourism impact is made less desirable by the dramatic effect the project would have on land values, several residents pointed out.

O’Rear recently became the owner of one of the bed-and-breakfast inns scattered along the mountain. She and her husband Steve spent a year and a small fortune creating their High Horse Lodge, which opened earlier this summer.

“They are going to try and mar the very thing that brought the people here in the first place,” Holley Midgley said.

Midgley has three acres of vacation property in Mentone that has been in his family since 1945. It is also part of a 100-acre parcel formerly owned by Martha Berry.

He supports the use of wind power over expanding nuclear energy, but believes it should only be developed in uninhabited remote areas.

Midgley speculates that “a few people would get some money, but the rest of us will have to live with this for the rest of our lives.”

Carl McCleskey and his wife Betsy Scott own 1,000 acres between Cloudland, Ga., and Mentone.

Their property is predominantly woodland used for dear hunting. They are currently finishing their dream home and have plans for cabin rentals in the future.

McCleskey’s understanding of the thick Iberdrola contract would lead to a clear-cutting of three acres per wind turbine, along with maintenance roads with 50-foot right-of-ways and a 1000-foot setback around the tower.

His calculations estimate a 72-acre area impacted by a single unit, which doesn’t account for multiple units being place in close proximity like the 10-12 units per site mentioned in the newsletter being circulated among residents.

McCleskey also has concern for the nearby summer camps, including Camp Adahi and Juliette Low.

The celestial views afforded on a sparsely developed mountain would be significantly impacted by light noise, McClesky said. Each wind turbine has a red FAA beacon light due to the height of the structures, in addition to flood lights illuminating the structure from the ground.

He is not aware of anyone in favor of the potential project.

“I feel confident that we will prevail and that this site is not viable for this,” McCleskey said.