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Tipton tables wind ordinance changes; Commissioners want more time to review amendments

Nothing has changed in Tipton County’s wind ordinance, at least not yet.

The Tipton County Commissioners tabled a vote Monday on a measure that would modify the county’s rules for wind farm developments, saying they need more time to review the proposed changes.

The Tipton County Plan Commission recommended approval of the changes last month. Among the modifications are increased setback requirements and changes concerning noise, lighting and shadow flicker.

Surveyor Jason Henderson said the proposed complaint process will use an out-of-county arbitrator and the county council would be asked to establish a non-reverting fund of $5,000, paid for by wind companies, to pay the arbitrator.

If approved, the amended ordinance will change wind turbine setbacks to 1,500 feet from a property line, 2,640 feet from a residential dwelling and one mile from a city, town or county boundary.

The noise level will be set at 5 decibels over ambient levels, shadow flicker will be limited to a maximum of 30 minutes per day and 30 hours per year, and steps will have to be taken to shield the flashing red lights on the top of each wind turbine.

Mike Cline, president of the board of commissioners, said members received a written copy of the proposed changes on Sunday and the amended ordinance had not been reviewed by county attorney John Brooke.

The commissioners have four choices when it comes to the changes. They may approve the amendments, deny the amendments, send the measure back to the plan commission for modifications or table it, Cline said.

Commissioners Phil Heron and Joe VanBibber both indicated they needed to read the amended ordinance before voting.

The commissioners have 90 days to take action.

The ordinance creates zoning overlay districts which designate appropriate locations for wind farm developments. Creating one requires the developer to seek approval from the plan commission, VanBibber said.

Any future expansion of the already operating Wildcat Wind Farm in eastern Tipton County would be covered by the proposed changes.

However, the proposed Prairie Breeze Wind Farm in northwestern Tipton County would be governed by the current ordinance, VanBibber added.

“I know what the intent is,” VanBibber, a member of the plan commission, said of the changes. “We want to make sure this accomplishes that.”

Tipton County has a moratorium in place on the development of any future wind farms through Dec. 31.

Nancy Cline, wife of Commissioner Mike Cline, called the process of rewriting the wind ordinance flawed.

She said the process has been manipulated and there has been a lack of transparency. Cline said wind farm opponents have attempted to sway decision makers.

“The CRD (Tipton County Citizens for Responsible Development) has brought unfounded conflict of interest allegations,” she said.

“Jerry Acres, Jim Ashley and Helen Tragesser have huge conflicts of interest,” Cline said of the chairman of the Board of Zoning Appeals and two members of the plan commission. Cline didn’t state what the conflicts of interest were.

Cline said a large number of people attending the public hearings were not Tipton County residents and the CRD wanted to create the illusion that they’re in the majority.

She said the plan commission should go back to the drawing board and rewrite the ordinance.