The wind has died and the dust has settled in Howard County.
Difficult market conditions and six years’ worth of grassroots efforts by citizens arguing the potential ill effects of wind energy ended Phases II and III of the Wildcat Wind Farm in Howard and Grant counties. It was made official at a special meeting of the Howard County Commissioners last week.
As part of the termination of the agreement, the commissioners also passed a resolution asking the Howard County Plan Commission to amend the county’s wind ordinance to reflect more restrictive standards, and require any future wind energy facilities have a special use permit.
The termination of the contract with E.ON was a victory for many residents on the east side of Howard County and a demonstration that voices of the public really can be heard if they are organized and educated when approaching government officials.
Following the commissioners’ announcement that the contract with E.ON was being terminated, many residents thanked community advocate Grace Aprill and the many others who faithfully attended commissioner and council meetings over the past few years to express their concerns regarding the project’s potential impact on property values and health.
To the commissioners’ credit, they listened, allowing them to come up with an agreement that both they and E.ON could live with.
Aprill, who has constantly been on top of every move the county has made throughout the process, knew the meeting would have one of two outcomes: Either E.ON would be asking for an extension on the project or the economic development agreement would be terminated.
Now, Aprill and the advocates against the wind farm are ready to move forward and mend any of the ill will that developed since the original agreement was signed in 2008.
“With the moratorium in place we can now come forward together, citizens and governing bodies, to amend the Howard County wind ordinance and begin the process of healing relationships and reaching out to those feeling shortchanged by the actions taken in the cancellation of this industrial wind turbine project,” she said.
Commissioners and council members commended Aprill’s “Grace under pressure” adding that she and many others from the east side of the county consistently advocated for the residents in a professional manner.
“I’d like to say what an honor it was to watch Grace Aprill be the hub of informing the government that the people [weren’t] happy,” Howard County Councilman John Roberts said. “She proved that this is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. I’m just proud to be her neighbor here in Howard County and this reflects positively on our values.”
Councilman Jeffery Stout said some credit also was due to the county legal counsel and elected officials for maintaining a civil dialogue with vocal citizens prior to reaching the termination agreement.
“I think the definition of a true professional is being nice to people that are not nice to you,” he said. “I think our legal counsel, our commissioners and this council, through some offensive directive from people, were able to keep our cool and work through this problem to make this body very proud.”
It wasn’t always civil and they didn’t always agree, but the termination agreement was a sign that Aprill’s vision of democracy is still alive in Howard County.
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