FAYETTEVILLE – The developers of a proposed wind farm west of Springdale filed a petition Monday with the Washington County judge to be de-annexed from the county and eventually join Elm Springs, the county attorney said.
The petition from Dragonfly Industries International is the first step in the lengthy process of joining Elm Springs, a town of 1,700 outside Springdale. Company executives for months have said they hope to join the town before they begin building Arkansas’ first wind farm on around 300 acres of unincorporated land just west of the city.
County Judge Marilyn Edwards plans to either approve or reject the petition at a hearing set for 9 a.m. June 15 in the county courthouse in Fayetteville, county attorney Steve Zega told the Quorum Court late Monday. From there, Edwards’ decision could be appealed to county circuit court. If Dragonfly is successful, the proposal then would go to the Elm Springs City Council for an ordinance or resolution to absorb the land, Zega said.
Dragonfly hopes to build dozens of turbines in the next few years. CEO Jody Davis has said his company’s unusual enclosed turbines would provide 80 megawatts of renewable energy to the area and solve several issues with conventional turbines while taking up less space.
Opposition to the project has intensified gradually since Dragonfly first spoke with city officials late last year. Hundreds of neighbors of the land and other town residents spoke against it during a town hall in March.
Many said the proposed 150-foot turbine towers would be too close to houses. Others were skeptical of the company’s claims or suspicious of its motives to join Elm Springs, saying the Washington County Planning Board would look at the proposal more stringently than the town’s planners.
“It doesn’t come as a surprise; I think it just shows they intend to move forward regardless of the public opinion,” Jonathon Hamby, who lives next to the Dragonfly land, said of the petition. “We still feel green energy is good, but this is just the wrong location, it’s just too close to people’s homes, and no one’s listening to us.”
Neither Davis nor Dragonfly corporate affairs director Jim Lefler could be reached Monday evening by phone or email. Davis previously said the towers would be safe and stand a 1,000 feet from property lines in response to concerns such as Hamby’s. The location was good for wind, Davis said, and the project would benefit Elm Springs.
The hearing in June isn’t meant to be a place for the county judge to pick a side in the controversy, Zega said. Edwards must make sure the petitioners have followed the rules for annexation set by state law and Arkansas Supreme Court decisions, such as by representing a majority of the landowners affected.
Alderman Kevin Thornton, who represents Ward 1 in Elm Springs, said Monday evening he couldn’t say how he’d vote for annexation until he sees firm plans for the project.
“It has been a lively debate,” he said. “There’s still so much to do. Until we see something formal and official, I think it’s premature to say anything.”
Hamby said he and others would keep an eye on the project’s progress.
“We’re definitely going to be opposing this at every step of the way,” he said.
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