Tipton – Even local residents opposed to a proposed operational and maintenance facility by E-on Climate & Renewables agreed it was needed, but not in their backyard.
After more than two hours of discussion and several failed votes on Thursday, the Tipton County Plan Commission forwarded with no recommendation a request to rezone the property to the county commissioners.
The Plan Commission tabled the rezoning request for 10 acres from a “Rural Residential” to “AgriBusiness” at the March meeting for additional information from E-on.
Motions for a favorable and unfavorable recommendation from the plan commission to the commissioner both failed because there was not the required five votes. Plan Commission member Scott Friend didn’t attend the meeting.
The company came prepared with a PowerPoint presentation and drawings of the proposed facility showing landscaping and lighting.
E-on plans to invest up to $1.5 million in the operation and maintenance facility which would include a storage area and provide up to 50 jobs once the Wildcat Wind Farm is completed.
The property in question is located on County Road 400 North, approximately 1.5 miles east of Windfall.
The first floor conference room of the Tipton County Courthouse was packed with residents opposed to the rezoning contending it would lower property values, didn’t comply with the county’s comprehensive plan and the proposed zoning designation.
“It has to be somewhere,” Judy Colbert said. “It happens to be close to us.”
Kevin Colbert said the Tipton County was divided on the construction of the Wildcat Wind Farm, but that local residents were not in favor of the facility.
Colbert said the request for the facility should have been zoned “Light Industrial” or a “General Industrial District” and that the “AgriBusiness” zoning was intended for companies providing needed supplies and services to the local farming community.
“If you build a facility like this in a rural area, how do you tell the next one ‘no,’” he said. “Your setting precedent for the future of the county.”
David Booth said his family moved into the area about 11 months ago knowing the wind farm was a possibility. He said the operations and maintenance facility would have changed their thinking.
“Tipton County is one of the three garden spots in the world,” Fred McCorkle said “This is taking more land out of the garden.”
McCorkle said there were other areas in Tipton County that were less densely populated and would make a better location for the facility.
Steve Edson, planning director, said he made the decision on the zoning designation for the project.
“I’m comfortable that this is the appropriate use,” he said. “In my opinion, this is not an industrial use.”
Edson said he considered approving the rezoning request without a public hearing because the Tipton County Board of Zoning Appeals last year approved a conditional use for the entire area that would include the wind farm.
“This is a permitted use in the approved area,” he said.
During E-on’s presentation, project manager Andy Melka said the facility would be in operation for 30 years and is used to monitor the wind turbines and when to turn them on and off.
The office building would be 12,600 square feet and a second building used for oil containment for use in the turbines would be 3,600 square feet.
Melka said lighting in the storage area would not be turned on at night, except for emergency repairs.
“We considered three or four options in Tipton and Madison counties,” he said. “This was our best option. This facility is required to generate power.”
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