TIPTON – Citizens of Tipton County had their final say Monday on revisions to the ordinance that dictates how wind energy developments may be built in the county. The changes will be discussed by the Tipton Board of Commissioners in a couple of weeks.
The Tipton County Commissioners tabled the vote in early November on a measure that would modify the county’s rules for wind farm developments, saying they needed more time to review the proposed changes.
The Tipton County Plan Commission recommended approval of the changes on Oct. 17. Among the modifications are increased setback requirements and changes concerning noise, lighting and shadow flicker.
After hearing some citizens speak in favor of passing the revised wind ordinance at Monday’s board of commissioners meeting, Tipton County Commissioner Joe VanBibber said he believes issues like fines and penalties, as well as economic development, will be addressed at the commission’s next meeting on Dec. 16.
“The penalties and the fines will be increased and cleared up within the ordinance,” VanBibber said Monday. “There were some issues on economic development agreements that I think we’ll clear up. The economic development agreement is negotiated by the commissioners and I think there will be some language that will be cleaned up. I think the fines will be substantially increased and will be specific to wind and not specific to the entire ordinance.”
Surveyor Jason Henderson said in November 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.
As time passes, residents in Tipton County are finding that setbacks originally set at 1,000 feet from a property line don’t address noise concerns, Tipton County Citizens for Responsible Development Secretary Kirsten Leonard said.
“A number of people are talking about being sleep-deprived,” she said. “It’s very complicated. I think the issue we have in the Midwest is that the 1,000-foot setback from a home was invented out of nowhere. I think they’re realizing that is extremely short. In the case of one of the people we know, the nearest turbine is 1,800 feet away and it’s resulting in such severe problems that he can’t sleep.”
Under the new ordinance, 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.
During Monday’s commissioners meeting, members of the Tipton County CRD spoke out in support of passing the revised wind ordinance as well as the extending the current moratorium on development of any more wind farms through Dec. 31.
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.
CRD President Jeff Hoover said future consideration of wind farms in the county should be put on hold until issues like noise and property value are resolved.
“For a true cost-benefit analysis, it is also important to determine the actual income to the county,” he said. “Until these issues are resolved, and we can confirm that the proposed ordinance prevents recurrence, it would be inappropriate to consider any potential applications.”
The CRD voiced its support of commissioners having “more teeth” than they do in the current ordinance to enable them to force resolution of documented problems.
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