May 22, 2012

Tipton commissioners OK E-on facility rezoning

By Ken de la Bastide, Tribune staff writer | Kokomo Tribune | 22 May 2012

TIPTON – Despite concerns from area residents, the Tipton County Commissioners unanimously approved rezoning for E-on Climate & Renewables operating center in rural Tipton County.

The commissioners Monday heard about one hour of discussion from E-on and local resident Kevin Colbert on the pros and cons of the operations and maintenance facility to be constructed east of Windfall.

The Tipton County Plan Commission in April sent the rezoning request to the commissioners with a neutral recommendation to rezone 10 acres from agricultural to an agricultural/business designation.

Andy Melka, project manager for E-on, said it will be a regional facility that will oversee the operation of the 125 wind turbines in Tipton and Madison counties, and serve as a maintenance facility.

The company agreed to comply with lighting and landscaping requirements in the Tipton County zoning ordinance, stormwater retention on the property and to develop a plan to dispose of and store oil for the turbines within 120 days.

The facility will cost between $1 million and $1.5 million and eventually employ up to 50 people, Melka said.

The building is expected to be completed by December, when phase one of the Wildcat Wind Farm begins operation.

Melka said the building will be similar to farm structures in the area, and that very few heavy-equipment deliveries will be made to the site. He said deliveries to repair the turbines will be delivered directly to those locations.

Colbert asked the commissioners to consider the residents of Tipton County when considering the rezoning.

“It is serving a large area,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be at this location. There are areas that are more accessible.”

Colbert said it was spot zoning, and the last county comprehensive plan aimed to discontinue the practice.

“We have areas designated for industrial use,” he said.

Commissioner Mike Cline said he traveled to Illinois over the weekend to look at a similar E-on facility.

“It is basically a steel building with an office in the front and a workshop in the back,” he said. “There were no blades being stored.”

Commissioner Jane Harper said the facility is needed and has to be located somewhere. She asked E-on to look at a site on Ind. 213.

Melka said that site was longer and narrower, and there would be future environmental concerns.

“It was not conducive to what we need,” he said.

Cline said his visit to Illinois answered a lot of questions concerning lighting, noise and traffic that were raised at the March meeting of the plan commission.

Harper said Tipton County historically has approved spot zoning, noting the proposed Abound Solar site.

“It’s the not-in-my-backyard syndrome,” she said. “The large building at U.S. 31 and Ind. 28 is near residential properties. There was no consideration of the impact on those residents.”

Harper said if the facility was moved to another location, there would be new residents in opposition.

Commissioner Phil Heron said the wind farm is an emotional issue and has divided some families.

“Whatever we decide, we’re going to make someone unhappy,” he said.

Heron said he heard from three Windfall residents on Sunday in support of the rezoning.

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