I am a homeowner inside the footprint of the proposed Prairie Breeze Wind Farm. If the project goes through as proposed, I will have 10 of these 500-foot-tall, industrial wind turbines within a mile of my front door. As a result, I am keenly interested in the outcome of the March 20 BZA meeting. Its outcome will determine the future value of my home, whether I will be able to sell my home (if necessary) and my family’s health and peace of mind for the next 25 years.
My overriding feeling as I have researched and been involved in the process of preparing for the BZA meeting, is one of disappointment with a process that leaves me just one opportunity to try to protect my home and future.
I, like many homeowners in my area, first learned of the proposed Prairie Breeze Wind Farm days before the Dec. 17 tax abatement meeting. I went to that meeting and voiced my concerns, but it seemed apparent that the decision to approve was a foregone conclusion. When we asked at that meeting why we were only just learning about this project when Juwi had been signing leases and working with the county government for four years, we were told that we should have come to the council and planning meetings.
I am an engineering manager that typically works 60-plus hours per week. It never occurred to me that, in a county where the planning meetings typically handle issues like zoning approvals for pole barns, such a huge decision as the one to introduce industrial wind turbines could occur without the public being informed in some way.
While I understand that legally no broader notification may have been required, I am disappointed that no one felt it appropriate to go beyond just “what is required” and get this issue in front of the county population.
The decision to make our county “wind friendly” is one that should have been made by the county at large, not just a few.
This is especially true given that the county government itself is one of those that will benefit from the proposed installations. We’ve all heard from Juwi and the proponents of the wind farm about the potential tax revenue that may come in. While those figures are debatable, there is no doubt that the county will be a recipient of funding.
Whether or not there is a specific conflict of interest from any of those involved, as a homeowner, it feels like the county government as a whole has a conflict of interest, as they define the process and ultimately determine the outcome when they are one of the principal beneficiaries.
Juwi claims that the proposed wind farm will have no impact on my property value and will not generate noise that will prevent me from sleeping at night or impact my health, and the proponents and beneficiaries are parroting these assertions without challenging them. The extensive research that I have performed over the past two months leads me to substantially question those claims, and I encourage everyone to do their own research and draw their own conclusions.
But, I have a different concern. What penalty is there for Juwi or the proponents if their assertions are false? If the wind farm goes through and two years from now my property is worth 40 percent less, if I cannot sleep at night because of the noise levels in my home (infrasound and audible), if I am right about the concerns and Juwi and the proponents were wrong, what recourse do I have?
First, the burden of proof will be solely on me to prove the impact. County Plan Commission Director Steve Edson has acknowledged that the county does not have the equipment or expertise to monitor sound levels and would be dependent on the industry to monitor itself or citizens to provide that data themselves.
If I’m successful in proving impact, who do I look to for redress? Do I look to Juwi? If the company’s historical pattern holds, by that time, it will have sold the wind farm to another entity. Do I look to Prairie Breeze Wind Farm LLC? It has been set up as a limited liability corporation, specifically to limit its exposure. Do I look to the county? Do I look to the farmers on whose land the turbines reside?
The reality is that there is little if any penalty for juwi or any of the proponents of the wind farm if they put forward inaccurate information to get the wind farm approved. By the time their misstatements are proven to be wrong, they will be gone (taking their profit and our tax dollars with them), and Tipton County residents will be left with the mess they created.
Hopefully, you can understand from that, why we homeowners are fighting so hard now in opposing the proposed Prairie Breeze Wind Farm (despite the fact that it seems like David fighting Goliath); it is because we see the BZA meeting as our last opportunity to protect our investments in our homes, our health and well-being and to prevent our county from being overrun by industrial wind turbines.
I encourage everyone to show up at the Tipton High School auditorium at 5 p.m. March 20, and let your voice be heard on this issue.
Mark Lynn, Sharpsville