TIPTON – Backed by experts on health concerns and property values, E-on Climate and Renewables received a unanimous vote Monday to clear another hurdle toward building a windfarm in the area.
The company has agreed to comply to additional requirements as spelled out in the zoning ordinance. With that agreement, the Tipton County Board of Zoning Appeals approved a special exception to allow them to move forward with the project.
A large group of Wildcat Wind Farm project supporters gathered at the board’s meeting in the 4-H Building. The discussion of the project’s request lasted more than two hours.
The board granted approval with the stipulation that building permits not be granted until the company reaches an agreement with county officials on an amended road agreement and for the cost of dismantling the facility in the future.
Planning director Steve Edson said location improvement permits would not be issued until the two agreements are finalized.
Following the vote, E-on project manager Andy Melka said the company is on track to begin construction in Tipton County in late fall or early spring.
Prior to the meeting, Hoosiers Against Windfarms met with approximately 20 local residents. The group sought changes in the distance a wind turbine can be placed to a residence and voiced concerns about the impact on property values.
Rural Elwood resident Michele Beeman was among the supporters at the meeting.
During a question-and-answer period, she elicited a round of laughter when asking, “Why can’t I have one?”
E-on plans to construct a 200-megawatt wind farm in the four-county area – including land in Tipton, Howard, Grant and Madison counties – at an estimated cost of $400 million.
The project, Melka said, includes between 80 and 125 wind turbines, and an estimated 150 acres.
Melka said the company’s request for the conditional use met all the requirements of the Tipton County zoning ordinance. He said the company was voluntarily extending the setback between a residential property from 1,000 feet as required in the county’s ordinance to 1,250 feet.
A Chicago doctor addressed health concerns caused by the operation of the turbines, particularly noise.
“Wind turbines don’t produce any sounds outside what would be considered normal,” Mark Roberts said. “Turbines have been around for a long time, there has not been a lot written in scientific journals. Right now, there is no evidence that wind turbines impact noise.”
Several people raised concerns that the placement of wind turbines would reduce property values, particularly for non-participating property owners.
Mark Thayer, a San Diego State University professor, published a study in 2009 that looked at property values around 24 wind farms in 10 states. He said the study looked at residential property sales before, during construction and after the wind farms went into operation.
“We found no impact,” Thayer said. “There has been no study that showed an impact since our study was published. Tipton County is right in our sample range, it looks exactly like some of our study areas.”
Tipton County Commissioner Mike Cline said the commissioners have endorsed the project.
“It increases the tax base and doesn’t require any extra services,” he said.
Property owner Larry Conway said he was skeptical about the project at first, but after visiting a wind farm in Benton County, he found there was little noise created and the roads were improved.
“Our taxes have doubled in the past four years,” Conway said. “You can’t keep raising taxes on land owners every year. Benton County farmers have seen an increase in property values.”
With the approval from the zoning board, the company is now able to apply for building permits.
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