SELMA – The chairman of the city-county plan commission isn’t the only local government official who is not ready to welcome wind farms to Delaware County.
E.ON Climate & Renewables this week canceled an appearance before the council, from which it was scheduled to ask for property tax abatement for a wind farm.
“In my opinion, they pulled the request off the table until a later date yet to be determined because I think they are pretty well tuned in to what the council’s actions would be,” council member Mike Jones told The Star Press. “Again, in my opinion, trust me, the council will most likely turn it down, most likely unanimously.”
He told about 125 wind farm opponents at a meeting Tuesday night in Selma Elementary School that E.ON has told the county’s tax abatement committee that without tax abatement “they are out of here.”
Jones disclosed during the meeting that he lives on the fringe of the proposed wind farm, as does council member Rick Spangler. Council President Kevin Nemyer lives “in the heart of it,” Jones added.
E.ON is hoping to build 22 to 29 wind turbines in an area bounded by Country Club Road, the Randolph County line, Ind. 32 and Albany at a cost of more than $100 million, Jones and County Commissioner Sherry Riggin told the crowd.
The company also plans to construct another 30 or so wind turbines at a cost of more than $100 million in Randolph County as part of the same project.
Jones and Nemyer sit on county council’s tax abatement committee, along with Dewayne Richmond and Fred Martin. The fifth seat is currently vacant.
“They (E.ON) emphasized to the abatement committee that they would not go forward without abatement,” Jones said. “It was projected on the screen during their (slide show) presentation. But I don’t necessarily agree with that. Not with all the work they’ve done thus far, years in the making.”
On Thursday, Tom Green, chairman of the city-county plan commission, urged county officials to study the impact of wind farms in other Indiana counties for at least two years before deciding what regulations to impose to protect wind farm neighbors.
According to Riggin, about four dozen farmers and other property owners have agreed to lease land in Delaware County to E.ON.
At Tuesday night’s meeting in Selma, opponents signed petitions; sold yard signs bearing the message, “Stop Wind Farms Save Our Homes;” and handed out pin-back buttons reading, “Grow Corn Not Wind Turbines” and “The Big sWINDle.”
The purpose of the meeting was to rally opponents to attend an upcoming public hearing before the city-county plan commission, which was scheduled to vote on an amendment to the county zoning ordinance to regulate wind farms. However, that hearing now seems highly unlikely.
Opponents hope to regulate wind farms out of the county by signing petitions calling for a 2-mile setback between wind turbines and dwellings, leaving little or no room for a project. The plan commission is considering a setback of 1,320 feet.
Any regulations adopted by the plan commission would be subject to disapproval or change by the county commissioners.
Riggin said she was 60 percent in favor of a wind farm and 40 percent opposed as of now. But she added, “I’m not done with my research.” She likes the economic development aspect of a wind farm and the property taxes it would generate for local government.
As a result of property tax caps being amended into the Indiana Constitution, “we’re at a standstill,” said Riggin. Property taxes are a primary source of revenue for local government, and the majority of county government spending is on personnel like county police and emergency medical technicians/paramedics.
But Jones said any increase in property tax revenue from a wind farm would be offset by a decrease in property taxes from homes whose values will plummet because of their proximity to a wind farm.
You can find 100 good things about wind farms and 100 bad things about them on the Internet, Jones added. His conclusion is the bad outweighs the good.
Matt Tulis, communications manager at E.ON, declined comment. “It’s our company policy not to discuss project specifics at this stage of development,” he said.
Tuesday night’s meeting featured a panel of anti-wind farm speakers from Tipton County – where one wind farm has been built and a second one has been approved —answering questions from the audience.
“Wind farms are not profitable,” said one of the speakers, Jim Leffler. “It’s another government program that doesn’t work.” Wind farms promise to generate property tax revenue to help fund local schools, but schools too close to wind farms will shut down due to health and safety reasons, he said. He and other speakers from Tipton County, who say they have spent hundreds of hours on research, said the value of homes in the vicinity of wind farms drops 20 percent to 40 percent and even more in some cases.
The red blinking lights of a wind turbine at night make homeowners feel like there is an emergency vehicle parked outside all night long, said another speaker, calling wind farms “red light districts.”
Others spoke of wind turbines exploding, cattle dying, children suffering seizures, and people experiencing migraines, sleep deprivation and nausea.
“It’s the worst, God-awful sound,” Delaware County resident Dave Meranda said of his visit to E.ON’s Wildcat Wind Farm in Madison and Tipton counties.
“There is so much information out there on wind farms,” said Delaware County Commissioner Larry Bledsoe, who also sits on the plan commission. “We are trying as a plan commission to determine which is correct and which isn’t correct. We need rules to protect the property, health and well-being of citizens, but we have to be reasonable. We can’t just come out and say we don’t want it. That would set us back decades in trying to gain future development. We do not need to send negative messages to other economic development activities.”
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