Residents of Owls Hollow Road gathered Saturday to share their opinion on the proposed wind farm on Lookout Mountain by Austin, Texas-based Pioneer Green Energy.
Their opinion was simple and to the point – not here, not now, not ever.
Chris Lipscomb gathered about 35 of his neighbors at his house, which he says will be 1,853 feet from his back door to the project.
His biggest concern is the hit his property value would take, which he said would be close to 50 percent.
“When you take a virgin piece of ground and start from the ground up, hoping to retire here and grow old and gray,” Lipscomb said, “it’s scary to think that a company can just take away half of that.”
Lipscomb also mentioned his concern that the decrease in property values would have a negative effect on the county’s tax base.
He is not a believer that the turbines will produce power, so the loss in tax revenue would be not be compensated by taxing the power that comes from the turbines.
He said the turbines also would be a nuisance to him and his family.
He has two young girls and doesn’t want their sleep and growth affected by the low-frequency noise, vibrations and red strobes to warn aviation. He’s also concerned about the potential destruction of the mountain and damage to the serenity of the area.
B.H. and Helen Fincher own 40 acres at Owens Switch.
Helen Fincher said the Pioneer Green people did not seem to care much about them or the property they have spent their lives developing – and which they would have a lot of trouble selling because they would be right under a turbine.
Their property also serves as a training ground for the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Unit.
The Finchers also have a lake held together by an earthen dam, and Helen Fincher is concerned the blasting down to the bedrock could flood the homes further down the road from them.
“We’re not people to them, we’re land. They don’t care about the people,” she said. “We’re just an area of land they want to put their property on so that they can make money. All it is about is money to them.”
Many of the residents said they are in favor of green energy, but oppose the Noccalula project for a myriad of reasons. Brandon Balenger said he doesn’t think it is right for the project to be so close to those who live at the base of the mountain.
“I think most of would be in favor of harnessing a natural form of energy, but in a right kind of way,” Balenger said. “I think wind turbines belong in non-residential areas, and this is a residential area.”
The residents also questioned Pioneer Green’s motives, saying they believed the project was not to provide green energy but rather to collect government subsidies while leaving the residents holding the proverbial bag. Daryl Hoksbergen said he doesn’t believe the projects are viable business plans.
“They don’t stand on their own merit. What kind of business is that?” Hoksbergen said. “This is the perfect opportunity for us, as a community, to come together and have the courage of our convictions and stand up and say ‘Not only not in my backyard, but not at all.’”
Hoksbergen moved to Owls Hollow Road two years ago from Milwaukee, after retiring as an airline pilot, to enjoy the area’s natural beauty, and he is upset that now Pioneer Green wants to change that with the project. He said the company would pollute and desecrate what he bought.
He isn’t only opposed to it because it’s in his backyard, however. He said he would oppose the project even if it was 25 miles away.
Another recurring concern is the effect of the blasting required to build the turbines on the springs. John Money’s family, the Glenns, have been at the same property on Owls Hollow Road since 1943, and one of the keys to their survival has been the underground springs and the pure, clean water they provide. He worries that the blasting could cause the springs to change course, cutting off water to the families and their livestock.
“It does not take much of a disturbance for a spring to move and relocate someplace else,” Money said. “If our spring up and leaves, that’s a problem for us.”
For now, the residents plan to stay vocal and ask the Etowah County Commission to do whatever it can. Lipscomb said he would like District 2 Commissioner Kenney Tidmore to defend their rights as property owners, even though he has stated this is a private property issue the commission has no control over. He said they will pursue every avenue they can to stop the project.
“Pioneer Green is the aggressor, not us,” Lipscomb said. “When our hands are absolutely tied with the county commission, litigation is our next step.”
Lipscomb said the only political support the residents have received is from Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, whose proposed wind farm regulation bill died in Montgomery because of a Democratic filibuster.
The residents said they will continue to be vocal and continue to drum up support and educate everyone they can about what they consider to be the dangers of the proposed wind project – not just for themselves, but for the community as a whole.
“We just don’t want them,” resident Larry Gibbs said. “They can move (the turbines) back to Texas.”
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