A public hearing Wednesday night allowed Whitley County residents to voice their opinions on what changes should be made to a proposed wind farm ordinance.
It was cheers and jeers Wednesday night as nearly 40 people shared opinions about a proposed zoning ordinance for wind farms in Whitley County. A public hearing was held in the county’s 4-H Center. The zoning ordinance has been in the works the past two years, and this is the sixth draft of the ordinance. Whitley County Plan Commissioners say they hope to be able to make a recommendation soon.
The big debate is over the set-back distance. The current draft of the ordinance says a turbine must be 1500 ft. from a residence. Carolyn Stanger says the set-back should be further and be measured by the property line, not the residence. She says it will compromise people’s quality of life, and residents fear suffering from shadow-flicker, noise, and decreased property values.
“To have a 400 to 500 ft. tall monstrous thing only 1200 ft. from your house would really impact your property values, your lifestyle. Most of us moved out to the country to enjoy the rural lifestyle, the peace and quiet,” Stanger said.
Caroline Dennis agrees. She says she didn’t have much growing up and moved to Whitley County to have a more enjoyable life.
“I moved out there and invested all my savings for a dream I had,” Dennis said. “They’re showing that people are getting sick by living within even two miles of these. This is all over the world, but yet in Indiana, they’re plowing through and pushing ordinances to put them 1200 feet from our homes.”
Doug Sheetz supports the idea of wind energy. He thinks the set-back distance should be decreased to 1200 ft. to allow more wind turbines.
“It’s good clean energy. I would rather see 10 wind turbines than one more house. A house, we lose anywhere from a half an acre to five to 10 acres. With a wind turbine, we’re going to lose a quarter of an acre and it’s actually going to produce something,” said Sheetz.
Sheetz says a wind farm will boost the local economy and improve infrastructure.
“Everywhere I’ve been that has the wind turbines there’s been improvements,” he said. “It will lower property taxes to the individuals who own property in that area, it will get us some new roads built, and we will get tax money from them. So it will give extra money to our schools, our fire departments and the county itself. I don’t know a county that’s not struggling in this economy.”
“It just seems that the main driver for all this is greed,” said Stanger. “The wind companies are getting a lot of tax subsidies—and that’s our money. So basically we would be using our money to put up something that would ruin our lifestyle.”
But Sheetz says he thinks it’s a “step in the right direction.” He says they need to do something to combat rising energy costs.
“The worst thing that irritates me is when they tell you a wind farm will give energy to 20,000 homes—it’s only enough energy for your toaster and your water heater,” exclaimed Dennis.
Dennis says GPS and Doppler radar will not work within the vicinity of a wind farm, nor will emergency helicopters be able to land because of it. She also said insurance companies are becoming unwilling to cover people’s homes with wind turbines on the properties.
Dennis says there’s a lot of “misinformation” and “fallacies” and people are being “misguided” about green energy.
“We are not going to handle that next to our homes. We’re too populated. This is wrong,” she said.
Indiana’s NewsCenter received a call from David Sewell, Director of the Whitley County Plan Commission, just before midnight. He says the public hearing ended around 11:15 p.m. He says the Plan Commission did not make a recommendation and decided to take all public comments into consideration. If and when the Plan Commission accepts the ordinance, they would have to make a favorable recommendation to the Whitley County Commission, which would then vote it into law. In the meantime, another meeting will be held:
Wed. April 4
Whitley County Government Center, 220 W. Van Buren St. in Columbia City.