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County to have hearing on turbine setbacks  

Credit:  By JAMES SPRAGUE, News Examiner, Wednesday, April 22, 2015, www.newsexaminer.com ~~

The debate over a wind farm in Fayette County is picking up steam again, as there will be a public hearing on a petition from a group of residents seeking to extend the setback distance for wind turbines in Fayette County.

Fayette County Commissioners announced Tuesday during their regularly scheduled meeting that they had received a petition from the Wind Project Concerned Citizens group, a collection of residents and property owners within the county, requesting a zoning ordinance amendment concerning setback distances for wind turbines from nonparticipating landowners.

The petition is in response to the proposed Whitewater Wind Farm project, headed by NextEra Energy Resources of Juno Beach, Fla., which would see the installation of 43 wind turbines in Fayette County – specifically Posey and Fairview townships – as part of the project spanning three counties.

The project would see between $120 to $140 million invested by NextEra Energy Resources into Fayette County’s portion of the wind farm, along with an estimated $20 million in payments to landowners leasing property for the installation of wind turbines over the 30 year life of the Whitewater Wind Farm. The county would also receive about $2 million total in economic development payments for the first six years of a 10-year tax abatement the county approved for NextEra earlier this year.

The WPCC, however, has expressed concerns over the county’s current zoning ordinance on setback distances for wind turbines – 1,000 feet – and feels a greater distance is needed, in order for those residents who are not participating in the project to be safeguarded against physical and environmental concerns, such as shadow flicker and noise, they have concerning the wind turbines.

NextEra Energy Resources, as part of their previous agreements with the county, has stated it would implement a 1,400- foot setback for wind turbines from non-participating landowners, but the WPCC wants to see a greater distance, according to the petition submitted to county commissioners.

“It is a petition for a zoning ordinance amendment,” Commissioner Frank Jackson said during Tuesday’s meeting. “What is being requested is a 2,640-foot setback from property lines of non-participating landowners, plus 2,640 from the participating landowners residence, and the same for public conservation lands, public parks, public schools, fire stations, et cetera.”

The petition clarifies that participating landowners in a wind project can waive, in writing, the 2,640-foot setback concerning a wind turbine on their property, and also requests that the noise level of both commercial and non-commercial wind turbines be no greater than 35 decibels measured from the nearest residence – excluding the residence of a participating landowner – and that the noise level can measure no greater than that with the exception of a utility outage or severe storm occurrence.

The petition conclude with a request to hold a public hearing on the matter, and was signed by Fayette County residents Joe Schultz, Cecil Bell, David Spencer and Craig Mosburg.

“The Petitioners respectfully request the Fayette County Area Plan Commission conduct a public hearing, after appropriate notice, concerning the requested changes and that the Fayette County Board of Commissioners approve the requested changes,” the petition stated. According to Jackson, the public hearings will take place, beginning with the Fayette County APC.

“I did talk to Bill MacDaniel yesterday,” Jackson said. “At this time … the proper procedure is for the Area Plan Commission to conduct a public hearing, and then their recommendation will be forwarded to commissioners.”

Once that recommendation is provided, commissioners will then hold a special public session to decide on the recommendation, Jackson continued.

“I think what I would prefer to do, if it’s ok with the other two (commissioners), is when we do that, we’ll have a special meeting specifically for that subject matter only,” he said. “At this time, that is what is planned.” No date has yet been set for the APC’s public hearing on the matter.

Source:  By JAMES SPRAGUE, News Examiner, Wednesday, April 22, 2015, www.newsexaminer.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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