Neighbors of wind farm developments planned in Tippecanoe County are unhappy that officials are considering relaxing the sound limits previously set.
After months of wrangling, the county commissioners approved a final wind energy ordinance in August. But the board is now revisiting the document and suggesting the noise limit be raised from 45 to 50 decibels.
The county commissioners gave initial approval Monday to the changes and will vote a final time at their Dec. 6 meeting. The commissioners could still change the proposal, but none of the three committed to doing so.
Robert Brooks, who lives on County Road 1300 South, made an emotional plea to the board, saying he already can hear when people are just walking outside his home and his 4-year-old daughter has trouble sleeping.
“My walls are paper thin,” he said. “This is a very personal issue to me … and my family.”
Kevin Nicoson, a local attorney who lives in Romney, also asked the commissioners to consider how wind turbine developments near his home will impact the quality of life.
“I know my life is going to be disrupted – just how much?” he said.
Nicoson remarked on the blinking red lights he passed on a recent drive down Interstate 65, where a large wind development is taking shape in Benton and White counties.
Official plans for Tippecanoe County’s first wind farm were announced in early September. Carmel-based Performance Services plans to build a 25-turbine wind farm on about 2,500 acres in the northwest part of the county.
In the southwestern part of Tippecanoe County, Invenergy Wind LLC of Chicago is planning a wind farm with 133 turbines.
Greg Leuchtmann, development manager for Invenergy’s project here, spoke at the commissioners meeting and called the proposed changes to the ordinance “appropriate and practical.”
Commissioner Tom Murtaugh said the county fielded requests from the companies interested in wind farm developments to raise the sound limits from 45 to 55 decibels. The proposed amendment would place the new limit at 50 decibels, which Murtaugh said is a good compromise.
According to Purdue’s audiology department, 50 decibels of sound equates to the noise of soft talking, a washing machine, a quieter air conditioner or an electric toothbrush.
“There is no harm to your hearing at 50 decibels, even for an extended period of time,” said Jennifer Simpson, director of clinical education in audiology at Purdue.
Murtaugh also noted that Tippecanoe County’s wind energy ordinance is stricter than most in the state.
Resident Julie Perretin said, “I don’t know why that’s a bad thing.”
She and others at Monday’s meeting asked to keep the noise level as it is, but to consider other changes in the ordinance. For one, residents would like to see the county conducting the pre- and post-construction noise level testing.
As it stands now, the developers would be required to hire a qualified consultant to do those tests. But residents worry that the results could be skewed.
Murtaugh said there is a provision for the county’s building commissioner to do additional noise testing if a complaint is filed. A complaint process is also being established in the ordinance to give companies a 10-day window to respond to both the county and a resident if any complaint about the development is filed.
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