TIPTON – Though wind farms were not meant to be the focus of the discussion on Tipton County’s new comprehensive plan, during the public hearing Thursday, 18 of the 21 people who commented discussed wind farm development.
By an 8-to-1 vote, the Tipton County Plan Commission recommended the adoption of the new comprehensive plan.
The plan, developed by the Illinois consulting firm of Houseal Lavigne Associates, is intended as a road map for future growth and development in Tipton County.
“We’re here to discuss the comprehensive plan,” Jason Henderson, president of the plan commission, said Thursday. “The comprehensive plan does not modify, change or approve any wind farm.
“We’re not here to hear about setbacks, ice throws,” he said, “current wind farms or any that are proposed.”
Many commenters represented the Tipton County Citizens for Responsible Development and asked the county to ban future wind farm development until a study of the existing Wildcat Wind Farm could be completed.
Board member Helen Tragesser cast the lone dissenting vote, noting the plan commission was not listening to a majority of the people in the county who are opposed to future wind farm development.
The comprehensive plan references wind farm development in general terms regarding the preservation of farm land and compatibility with residential areas. It outlines several options for permitting wind farms, including creation of an overlay district allowing the placement of wind turbines, the current conditional use permit process with Board of Zoning Appeals approval and the creation of districts where turbines would be permitted.
Frank Zickmund, a commission member, said the county has wind ordinances in place and any mention of wind farms should remain in the comprehensive plan.
“We have a process in place for approval or disapproval,” he said.
Commission member Jim Ashley said a review of the county’s zoning ordinances should take place after the comprehensive plan is approved.
“The plan doesn’t say what everyone wants to hear,” he said, “but says what it needs to. There may be a place for wind turbines in Tipton County; we need to work through that.”
There were several comments seeking to remove or retain language in the comprehensive plan pertaining to wind farms permits. The only language removed from the plan was a reference to wind farms in the agricultural section.
Wes Kirk, a wind farm opponent, claimed if the wind farms being proposed in the county become a reality, 66 percent of the land will be controlled by foreign companies and the leaseholders will have no input on the development.
“Study the Wildcat Wind Farm for several years before future wind farms are considered,” he implored.
Emily West, a CRD member, said wind farms should be located in land designated for industrial development and not on property zoned agricultural.
“A change in land use policy should protect all property owners,” she said.
Wind farm supporter John Cardwell said he hopes the comprehensive plan continues to offer the residents of the county an economic development opportunity.
“We have not had the time to see the positive effects of Wildcat,” he said.
Bill Peters asked that the wind farm language be retained in the plan, noting the additional tax revenue.
“We can have the greatest plan,” he said in terms of future development and projects, “but we won’t be able to pay for the problems facing the county.”
The recommended comprehensive plan will have to be approved by the Tipton County Commissioners before it’s implemented.
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