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County says yes, WL says no to new wind farm exemption time limits

The Tippecanoe County commissioners this morning signed off on a compromise giving wind farm developers 18 months to get their first generator up and running once their projects located in the county are approved.

But in West Lafayette, wind farm developers didn’t find such an accepting crowd tonight, with city council members voting down a change to the standard 12-month time frame.

There was little debate among the commissioners leading up to their unanimous vote in favor of the zoning amendment.

“It will give us time to get through the construction period,” said Greg Leuchtmann, development manager with Invenergy Wind LLC, a Chicago-based company pursuing a 133-turbine wind farm in southwestern Tippecanoe County.

“This will be a good adjustment for the county, for both participating and non-participating land owners.”

Residents who oppose wind energy projects had previously argued against any extension beyond the 12 months previously granted by county zoning rules.

But the new 18-month window is much closer to what those land owners wanted, compared to the three-year window originally requested by Invenergy.

Invenergy has not yet applied for the special exception, so the clock is not yet ticking on the proposed project.

In June, wind energy representatives argued before county officials for more time to get their projects off the ground due to the complexity in planning.

But nearby county residents said it’s not fair to leave them in limbo while waiting to see where and the how the project will take shape.

No one spoke in opposition to the amendment this morning before the county commissioners voted.

In West Lafayette, the proposed time frame expansion met with more skepticism tonight. The city council voted it down 6-1 during its regular meeting.

That means if a developer receives approval to build a wind farm in West Lafayette’s city limits, the window to get a first generator installed will remain at 12 months, said council member Gerry Keen, R-District 5.

Keen, who sits on the county’s area plan commission, told the West Side council that he voted against the time frame expansion in June, when the commission agreed to recommend the measure by a 9-1 vote.

“I disagree with the premise of it, in that the original (zoning) amendment was to extend the time window from one to three years. In my opinion, that’s completely excessive,” Keen said.

Dave Buck, the city’s engineer, said there are very few sites where a wind farm could rise in the city’s limits. Much of the suitable land, he said, is owned by the Purdue Research Foundation.

Keen and other council members acknowledged that it’s unlikely any company would propose building a wind farm in West Lafayette.

The time frame expansion needs to be voted on by Lafayette and town governing bodies to become effective in those areas.

The Lafayette City Council is slated to consider the issue during its meeting Monday.