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Whitley Co. wind ordinance not approved

After two and half years of debate, a wind farm ordinance in Whitley County was denied.

The winds died down Wednesday night in Whitley County. The Whitley County Plan Commission denied the final draft of the wind ordinance in a 4:4:1 vote. Five votes are needed in order for the ordinance to pass. Despite the outcome, county residents say they’re still uneasy.

“I’m very aggravated. I think that a lot of time has gone into this. We have people who are hanging on to see what’s going to happen with this ordinance and they won’t pass it,” said Burl Etue. “I’m not very happy at all.”

No wind farms are going up in Whitley County yet, but drafting the ordinance sets the boundaries in case one ever did. Etue says the idea of a wind farm has split the community and put neighbor against neighbor.

“This has divided the community. It’s divided it horribly. You have pro-wind on one side and anti-wind on the other side. It’s just really been tough. They need to just get it done.”

David Sewell, Executive Director of the Columbia City Whitley County Joint Building Department, says he was hoping the ordinance would be approved because no more changes can be made. The ordinance has been revised seven times and has gone to the County Commissioners for approval before. Before approval, they asked that revisions be made to the set-back distance, taking health and safety into consideration.

“We have done a lot of changes to it and there have been a lot of ideas put together on it. We’ve tried to incorporate all kinds of regulations so it certainly has been well thought out,” said Sewell.

Originally the set-back was 1000 ft. from a home for those who would have a wind turbine on their property, and 1500 ft. from the property lines for surrounding neighbors. In the draft proposed Wednesday, the set-backs are 2640 ft., or 6.5 times the height of the turbine, for both parties from the property lines. Residents still aren’t satisfied.

“I sure don’t want to have those monstrosities across the street,” said Etue. “It’s not fair to the people, let’s put it that way.”

No one who was pro-wind attended the meeting Wednesday night. Sewell did not specify whether he is pro-wind energy or anti-wind energy, but when asked what the disapproval could mean for residents he said, “My suspect is the ordinance that was passed at their last meeting will be reapproved and that will be the ordinance that will be in effect. It’ll be a half-mile set-back before any turbine is proposed for Whitley County.

“My guess is that will not be sufficient set-back for any turbine company to think that it’s feasible to build a wind turbine, farm, project in Whitley County,” said Sewell.

Sewell says the Plan Commission will make a recommendation for “no action” to the County Commission. The County Commission will have 45 days to either vote to pass the ordinance or allow the original ordinance, with 1000 and 1500 ft. set-backs, to become statue.