An article titled “Wind power protest airs in Morrow County,” printed in the East Oregonian on Saturday, January 28, contains an item worthy of further discussion.
Specifically, a quote attributed Jerry Reitmann, one of the primary organizers in the Ella Butte wind power project: “It’s perfectly valid for people to not like the idea of having wind turbines in their neighborhood. But it’s still a private property issue.”
While I agree wholeheartedly with that statement, it is important to note that private property rights are not unlimited. This seems to be a concept that escapes the notice of Mr. Reitmann. When the activities of Mr. Reitmann on his own property have a significant negative effect on the private property rights of his neighbors, well then, Mr. Reitmann’s activities are an infringement on his neighbor’s private property rights.
While wind energy developers continue to deny it, there is ample experience to confirm there are real negative effects on property values and quality of life issues due to close proximity to modern industrial scale wind turbines. These negative effects are reduced as distance from the turbines increases – and there are real, measurable negative effects up to at least two miles from the turbines.
So the functional meaning of Mr. Reitmann’s statement seems to be something like, “I’ll do whatever I want to do on my property to make money, and if that means your property value goes down, well, that’s just too bad.”
I find it extremely frustrating that wind project developers (and the attorneys who advise them) seem to be capable of only claiming to be good neighbors, rather than actually being good neighbors.
Indeed, here in Umatilla County, wind developers, involved property owners and their attorneys are doing everything they can to strike down development codes approved in June of 2011 that would force wind developers to actually be good neighbors, rather than just claim or pretend to be good neighbors.
I have heard the Morrow County planning director describe their wind energy siting codes as “robust.” My own review suggests that in this case, “robust” must mean something like “codes so loose they are easy to meet, hard to violate and with few enforcement mechanisms.”
Don’t let hot-button phrases like “private property rights” cloud your ability to consider all the issues related to siting commercial wind energy projects.
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