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Both sides in Tipton wind spat say ordinance reform needed

Juwi Wind North America sought and received permission from Tipton County authorities to build a wind farm. But at a contentious Board of Zoning Appeals hearing, board members pressed juwi officials for a guarantee property values would not go down if wind turbines were installed.

Juwi responded to the concerns but also filed an amended proposal with the county which is awaiting approval. That document asks the county to make variances to the minimum number of feet each turbine must be from property lines.

“What’s unfortunate here is the time, effort that’s been put into the project in its original design now needs to be redone to kind of meet a constantly moving target,” juwi North America CEO Michael Rucker says.

Rucker says Tipton County’s process is neither the most detailed nor the least scrutinizing he’s encountered. Still, he says the company would rather have engaged in a single discussion, rather than needing to go back to the table more than once.

Tipton County Planning Director Steve Edson says he is frustrated with juwi officials, even though he admits the way the process is proceeding is according to the letter of the law. But he says that does not mean the ordinance, which broadly allows wind development on agricultural land, is not flawed.

“I think there was some anticipation by the Plan Commission that applicants would be strategic thinking when they make the application and purposely avoid some populated areas,” Edson says. “And that hasn’t necessarily happened. Not in this case.”

Rucker says he is still hopeful the project will meet its original 2014 completion date, pending a response from the board of zoning appeals.

Edson says the conversations with juwi will be useful as the county decides whether to adopt a new countywide planning document in the coming months.