For more than two hours Monday, the Howard County Commissioners heard from local and Tipton County residents opposed to wind farm development.
The commissioners were asked to impose a moratorium on permitting or accepting new applications for the placement of wind farms in Howard County. It is a position commissioners didn’t want to take, at least until legal ramifications of the contracts signed with E.ON Climate & Renewables are determined.
Commissioner Paul Wyman offered a compromise to opponents: A moratorium will be considered within 30 days, but only if a request for the placement of a wind turbine is received by the Howard County Plan Commission.
Howard County already has signed road use and decommissioning agreements with E.ON, and has granted a 10-year tax abatement for phases 2 and 3 of the Wildcat Wind Farm on the eastern side of the county.
Wyman said the commissioners currently are collecting information on wind farms and will not vote on a moratorium until one is advertised, allowing proponents of wind farms the opportunity to comment.
Larry Murrell, Howard County attorney, said there are legal issues connected with a moratorium.
“We have several contracts with E.ON,” he said. “These were not a knee-jerk reaction. The wind ordinance was developed over three years and approved in a public meeting. The agreements with E.ON were voted on in public.
“We would have to look at the effect a moratorium would have on the contracts and tax abatement,” he said. “We can’t ignore the contract. We don’t know if imposing a moratorium violates the contract.”
Plan Director Greg Sheline said his office will review for 30 days any request for an improvement location permit for the placement of a wind turbine.
He said E.ON has indicated it will not request a permit until the end of this year or early in 2014.
During comments from the public, Susan Cox of Greentown said there are many people in eastern Howard County who are opposed to the Wildcat Wind Farm project.
“I don’t understand how a wind farm can be considered agricultural,” she said. “They are not compatible with a rural lifestyle.”
Cox asked for a moratorium until the county’s wind ordinance is amended.
When asked by Wyman what changes she would like to see, Cox said greater setbacks between the placement of a wind turbine and adjacent property owners.
Joe Anderson of eastern Howard County said he was concerned about property values and health issues with the placement of wind turbines.
Laura DiCarlo, a resident of the Chippendale subdivision near the proposed Prairie Breeze Wind Farm in Tipton County, said the Howard County wind ordinance must be amended with input from the public.
“The ordinance doesn’t protect the health, safety and property values in Howard County,” she said.
Brett McNeill, a Chippendale property owner, said Howard County residents had little to say about the proposed project in Tipton County.
He said property values could decline by 20 percent to 40 percent within 2 miles of a wind turbine. McNeill said he wanted the setback requirement in Howard County changed from 1,050 feet from the adjacent property to a minimum of 1,650 feet.
Keith Brautigam said he moved to the Greentown area two years ago from Michigan because his family loved the open farmland.
“I see the turbines near Windfall,” he said. “The turbines will be located around my house. We would not have moved here. I would stay as far away as possible from any turbines.”
Brautigam said the non-participating property owners are shouldering the risk of lower property values near the wind farms.
“It bothers me that the companies don’t want to guarantee property values,” he said.
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