As debate continues over the construction of wind turbines in Howard County and its neighbors, residents are turning up the heat on officials in an effort to stop development in the southeast corner of the county.
Concerned citizens spoke out during Tuesday’s Howard County Council meeting as council members listened to – and at times engaged with – residents during nearly two hours of public comment regarding the potential development of Phase Two of the Wildcat Wind Farm.
Many of the residents who would be affected by the construction spoke out about the potential hazards of the turbines, while Grant County Council member Dan Brock provided insight on some of the issues that county council has had in dealing with E.ON Climate & Renewables, the developer of the Wildcat Wind Farm.
Audience members provided emotional testimony about their concerns over the noise the turbines generate, the potentially negative effect they have on property values and the impact they have on farm land.
“If this industrial wind farm project is allowed to move forward against the wishes of these people, a huge injustice will have occurred … a huge wrong,” said wind farm opponent Grace Aprill, who presented 2,200 signatures from citizens opposed to the development of wind farms in Howard County.
After the Howard County commissioners approved amendments to the economic development agreement the county has with E.ON in July 2013, there appears to be little that can be done to stop the development of the Wildcat Wind Farm unless E.ON is found to be in breach of the contract.
Violation of a tax abatement schedule agreement between E.ON and the county council would be the only other reason the council could pull the plug on the project. To date, that hasn’t happened, Howard County Attorney Larry Murrell said.
“Both the council and commissioners amended the contract with E.ON,” he said. “If [E.ON] breached the contract, we could take steps to terminate it. If they don’t breach the contract, we could take steps to terminate it, but we would be exposed to a lawsuit for any damaged they’ve suffered from our breach.
“What the county has to weigh is, what are the consequences of breaching the contract and what kind of damages [would] you subject the county to?” he added. “You’d have to weigh all of those issues before you walk away from a contract.”
Howard County Council President Dick Miller said walking away from the contract with E.ON would not make fiscal sense.
“We are bound by rules and regulations,” he said. “It’s easy to say, let’s just abandon [the contract], but you have to have cause.”
In Grant County, Brock said E.ON’s original abatement died at the close of 2013 because the company did not meet a clause requiring construction to start by 2013. E.ON is still fighting with to put up wind turbines, but likely will not receive any tax abatement to move the project forward.
Brock said county officials have been misled by E.ON when asking about potential drawbacks to wind turbines, such as decreased property values, safety and noise levels.
“I was 100 percent, maybe 110 percent in favor of wind farms when I was approached,” he said. “I voted in favor of it. However, after my own research and after being misled on a number of issues, I’m very much opposed to them.”
Now many residents in the area where turbines could be built are starting to sing a different tune after hearing about the potential drawbacks, including Deborah Winger, who owns a farm with her husband, Steve, on the east side of the county.
Winger said they previously had signed a contract with Horizon Wind Energy to install turbines, but when E.ON took over the project in Howard County, the family didn’t sign amendments to the contract.
“When we went to the Horizon [Wind Energy] meetings, we thought this was a win-win situation for everyone,” she said. “Since then we’ve changed our mind. I personally would have two wind turbines directly around our house. With what we’ve seen that has gone on, that’s not something we want in eastern Howard County.”
Susie Randolph said E.ON has plans to install 11 turbines around her and her husband’s home near 400 North, 1000 East, which is surrounded by farm land.
She’s not looking forward to be surrounded by the potentially noisy turbines.
“I’m 69 years old, I’ve got probably 15 to 20 years left in my life,” she said. “Don’t make me live this with these things in my backyard.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding