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Plan commission tabled proposed wind farm regulations

MUNCIE – An overflow crowd of about 75 people showed up at a city-county plan commission meeting Thursday night in opposition to a possible Delaware County wind farm.

“Everyone feels blindsided,” said opponent James Rybarczyk, an associate professor of chemistry at Ball State, who was applauded.

He called commercial wind turbines weighing half a million pounds each “whirling, monstrous machines” that fit well in desolate areas of Texas and California but not in more densely populated rural areas like Delaware County.

Borrowing a line from O.J. Simpson defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, Rybarczyk said, “If it doesn’t fit, you must not permit.”

The commission is considering a zoning amendment that would permit wind farms in farming zones and also establish regulations, including setback distances between wind turbines and residences.

Noting that commission director Marta Moody had proposed three different setbacks (first 1,000 feet, then 1,250 feet and finally 1,320 feet) during the meeting, Rybarczyk said, “Marta seems to be pulling them out of a hat. Where are the scientific data?”

The commission agreed that it was not ready to vote on the proposed regulations Thursday night, postponing action for at least a month, while it considers information presented by the opponents.

Before the commission voted to continue the hearing until at least June 6, opponent H.C. Cross said he felt “like you’re ramming it down our neck” in a “hush-hush” manner.

“I’m not totally satisfied with the proposal in front of you,” Moody told the commission. “There have been some good comments tonight.”

Delaware County Council President Kevin Nemyer echoed opponents’ concerns that things are moving too quickly.

He said the first contact he had with wind farm developer E.ON Climate & Renewables was this week, when the company made a presentation to a property tax abatement committee of county government.

Property owner Mel Botkin, who spoke in favor of wind farms, said E.ON already has leased 15,000 acres in Delaware County for a project.

At the end of Thursday night’s meeting, Lael Eason, an E.ON development manager from Chicago, said many of the claims made by opponents “are simply false.”

The opponents spoke of wind farm fires, failures, shrapnel flying 4,000 feet through the air, strobe lights, homes near wind farms in Wisconsin being abandoned, threats to autistic children, low-frequency noise, loss of property values and other concerns.

“There have been no back-door deals,” plan commission member and Delaware County Commissioner Larry Bledsoe said. “The minutes of our meetings prove this (topic) didn’t spring up on anybody. It’s not that anybody’s mind is made up.”