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Kalida action delays KMI wind project

KALIDA – If Kalida Manufacturing Inc. goes ahead with plans to erect wind turbines by year’s end, there’s no chance the village of Kalida would annex the farm field those turbines would occupy.

Last week, Kalida Village Council rejected a zoning variance for the turbines. The council voted Monday to put the issue before voters on the November ballot.

The referendum question “would exempt wind turbines from the 45-foot height restriction that currently exists in industrial zoned properties,” Mayor Alan Gerdeman said. “We want to answer the question whether or not we would allow turbines to be considered in industrial zoned properties within the village. Council decided to let the residents decide.”

With a payroll of about 370 workers, Kalida Manufacturing is the village’s largest employer. It sits along state Route 224 east of the village proper, on land annexed to the village when KMI was founded in 1996.

The 55 acres where KMI proposes to build is in Union Township. KMI wants the field annexed to the village as well, but annexation would subject the property to the zoning height restriction.

KMI wants to buy the land and install two company-owned, 1.5 megawatt wind turbine generators that would provide about two-thirds of the company’s electricity needs, plant manager Rick Esch said in a previous report. The turbines must be completed and operational by the end of 2012 in order to qualify for substantial tax credits.

Esch attended a Union Township meeting March 27 to seek the trustees’ approval on a preannexation agreement between the village and township. The village has already signed the preannexation agreement and approved the first reading on a zoning ordinance that would allow the wind turbines within the village and would guarantee tax revenue to the township for the next 40 years.

At the same trustees’ meeting, more than 60 area residents expressed strong vocal opposition to KMI’s proposal. Their objections included the size of the project, its proximity to their homes, its alteration of the village skyline, and the noise the turbines would make while in operation.

The Village Council considered requesting a special election earlier to accommodate KMI, but Esch said the project would have to break ground in May in order to be completed by December. The earliest possible election would have been in August and would have cost an estimated $15,000 to $20,000, Gerdeman said, so the idea of an early vote was rejected.