TIPTON – After months of contention surrounding further wind farm development, juwi Wind has decided to cut its losses and part ways with Tipton County.
The Colorado-based company issued a statement Thursday saying it will no longer pursue plans to develop Prairie Breeze Wind Farm, a project that would have included 94 wind turbines in Prairie and Liberty townships with the capacity to produce approximately 150 megawatts.
“Withdrawing from a late-stage development project is always a difficult decision – especially when the development work has complied with all substantive and procedural regulations, and juwi has had the support of dedicated and civic-minded landowners and other community members who championed the merits of this project,” said Mike Martin, president of juwi Wind, in the statement.
The decision to halt the project came almost 11 months into a lawsuit filed by juwi against the Tipton Board of Zoning Appeals. The lawsuit alleged the BZA had exceeded its authority by increasing the distance wind turbines had to be from property lines and requiring a property value guarantee plan to protect non-participating property owners in the project area.
Juwi said those stipulations “effectively rendered the project impossible to build.”
There are other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who will decide whether to pursue their claims against the BZA, even though juwi is no longer involved.
“The continuing litigation costs and indefinite time period associated with pursuing the permits through litigation no longer make sense for the company,” juwi’s statement reads.
Jerry Acres, BZA chairman, defended the board’s stipulations.
“Our objective during this entire process was to ensure that the ordinances of Tipton County were upheld and to preserve the integrity of the BZA,” Acres said.
Citizens who have been outspoken against the wind farm development and Tipton County officials were in some ways relieved to hear of juwi’s decision to put the axe to Prairie Breeze.
“I see this as a closure to a difficult time in the community,” said Tipton County Commissioner Joe VanBibber. “It’s been a long, difficult discussion. I think the community has spoken on this and the company has decided it no longer wants to do business in that environment.”
VanBibber said it was unclear how much tax revenue the county stood to gain from juwi’s development, and it’s now a moot point anyway.
Juwi Wind and Tipton County entered into an economic development agreement at the end of 2012. The company planned to invest $300 million in the project.
At that time, another company, E.ON Climate and Renewables, was completing work on the first phase of its Wildcat Wind Farm project in Howard, Madison, Tipton and Grant counties.
The Tipton County Citizens for Responsible Development voiced concerns about the negative impact of wind farms on property values, the health of people who live nearby and noise.
As the planning commission discussed modifications to the county’s wind farm ordinance to address those concerns, a moratorium on any new wind farm development was approved in July 2013 and was extended to last through December of this year.
Jeff Hoover, president of Citizens for Responsible Development, said he is pleased the Prairie Breeze project has been abandoned.
“We think it is the right decision to make,” Hoover said. “We really appreciate the efforts of the BZA. We know it was a painful process, but we’re glad they protected the constituents, the people they were supposed to protect, from the damaging effects of the wind companies.”
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