Property owners file suit over planned wind project
Credit: By Lisa Rogers, Times Staff Writer | The Gadsden Times | Published: Friday, August 2, 2013 | www.gadsdentimes.com ~~
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A group of property owners who voiced concern about the proposed wind farm on Lookout Mountain have filed suit against the two companies involved in the project and some of their neighbors who allegedly have agreed to have wind turbines placed on their property.
The suit was filed Thursday by attorneys Tom King and Jeff Kirby on behalf of a group of about 32 landowners against Noccalula Wind LLC and Pioneer Green Energy and property owners Steve Shaneyfelt, Tim Shaneyfelt, Michael Shaneyfelt, Sara Box, Jeffrey Walker, Emily King, Chris King, Donald Chandler and Margaret Adams Moon.
The property owners near Shinbone Ridge claim the project will destroy the scenic beauty and diminish property values in the area, according to the suit. They say it will destroy the way of life that drew them to the area long before Noccalula Wind LLC and Texas-based Pioneer Green Energy decided to place dozens of wind turbines in Etowah County.
The suit also asks for a court order that requires the Etowah County Commission to establish regulations for the wind turbines.
It claims the turbines will produce very little electricity, and that it will be of less value than electricity produced by coal- and gas-fired generating plants.
The suit alleges the wind turbines are built because of “huge government subsidies that are acquired through the lobbying process” and solely benefit the wind energy companies and the landowners who put the turbines on their property.
It claims there is little or no benefit to the public, and when old and no longer functional, the turbines “may well litter the landscape of Etowah County, which may be left looking like a vast junk yard for old wind turbines.”
The suit claims there is no part of the contract between Noccalula Wind and/or Pioneer Green and the landowners to remove the wind turbines when they are no longer used. It alleges the negative impact will be much bigger than any benefits to Etowah County and its residents.
It claims the project will have an “overwhelming negative impact to the scenic beauty” and there will be constant noise, causing an adverse impact on tourism, recreation and home construction. It claims there also will be an adverse impact on second, vacation and retirement home construction because of the noise, scenic impairment, flashing of the blades when the sun strikes a particular angle, called “shadow flicker,” and adverse impact on wildlife.
The suit claims there is a significant danger from broken blades, lightning strikes and collapsing towers, and says all these aspects will have an impact on the property values of those who filed suit.
They include Chris Lipscomb, Leslie Lipscomb, Clodine Traylor, Sybil Money, John Money, Michael Lee, Joan Lee, Robert Bishop, Virginia Bishop, Larry Allen, James Glenn, Daryl Hoksbergen, Don Snead, Clara Snead, Larry Gibbs, Martha Gibbs, Vernon Stephenson, Brandon Balenger, Emily Balenger, Brent Balenger, Amy Balenger, J. Health Balenger, Candice Balenger, Timothy Campbell, Lathan Lancaster, Anita B. Simmons, Allen Hughes, Steve Smith, Troy Smith, Sandra Walden-Smith, Michael Cannon and Deborah Cannon.
The suit asks for judgment again the defendants and asks for a court order that would authorize the County Commission to regulate the permitting, construction, placement and operation of wind turbines, wind mills, wind farms and any other wind-generated energy production facility or equipment operated in the unincorporated areas of Etowah County.
It asks that the County Commission establish standards, specifications, criteria and conditions on the operations, and make a determination about appropriate sites where wind turbines can be located. It also asks that the commission establish penalties for any violations.
Pioneer Green Energy in February announced plans to build two wind-energy sites on Lookout Mountain. They would be the first such wind projects in Alabama.
The company had planned to begin construction by the end of the year in hopes of being operational in 2014.
A Pioneer Green spokesman has said the project would generate as much as $1.14 million in tax revenue and $2.3 million to $3.7 million in economic activity. He said the Etowah County site could generate enough power for 24,000 homes and cost up to $120 million for construction.
The company has said the structures would be 2,000 feet away from the nearest residence and the windmills only would be as loud as a refrigerator at that distance.
The windmills will be 267 feet to 330 feet tall. They will have to be marked by red lights to comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
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