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Councilman wants wind farm change

With the fate of the proposed Wildcat Wind Farm in Howard County an unknown as federal action on tax credits is awaited, Howard County Councilman John Roberts is asking to expand the setbacks for placement of turbines in the county.

Roberts asked the county commissioners Monday to consider changing the county’s zoning ordinance to require the setbacks near another structure to be expanded.

Currently, the requirement is that a turbine setback be 500 feet plus 1.1 times the height of the turbine or a total of 1,042 feet.

Roberts asked the commissioners to consider changing the setback requirement to 1,000 feet plus 1.1 times the height of the turbine on an emergency basis.

He requested the change be made before E-on Climate & Renewables, the developer of the proposed wind farm, finalizes the location of future turbines.

The wind farm is proposed to be located in Howard, Tipton, Madison and Grant counties in four phases. Construction on the placement of 125 turbines in Madison and Tipton counties is currently under way.

The future of the remainder of the project hinges on Congress extending tax credits for the production of wind energy.

Roberts said changing the Howard County ordinance will allow E-on to adjust where the turbines are located. He said currently the company uses a 1,250- foot setback for the placement of each turbine.

“This is to better balance the concerns of residents and meet the needs of E-on,” he said.

Roberts said the requirement of 1,042 feet is greater than in Tipton, Madison and Grant counties.

Howard County Planning Director Greg Sheline said he is comfortable with the county requirement, noting the setback requirement was discussed during the passage of the ordinance in 2009.

“Another 250 feet will make little difference,” he said.

Sheline said the farmers lease a small amount of property for an annual payment and the county has no infrastructure costs in the wind farm project.

Larry Murrell, Howard County attorney, said amending the county’s zoning ordinance will require several public hearings and couldn’t be done on an emergency basis by the commissioners.

Murrell said E-on was opposed to any change of the zoning ordinance after agreements have already been signed with Howard County. He said the company didn’t want the county to change the rules.

In other business: The commissioners agreed to spend $144,950 to replace the roof at Howard Haven, the county home.

Scott Reed, maintenance supervisor, said the roof was installed in 1985 and that there are no other structural concerns with the building.

Jennifer Vary, Howard Haven director, said there are currently 19 residents at the facility, which can hold a maximum of 23. She said the Friends of Howard Haven has spent $11,000 over the past two years on improvements to the facility.