A new date has been set for the public hearing on a proposed amendment regarding the setback distance for wind turbines in Fayette County.
Fayette County Area Plan Commission Director Bill MacDaniel announced Wednesday that the public hearing, which had been slated to occur Monday, will now take place Thursday, May 28 at the Robert E. Wise Center for Performing Arts on the campus of Connersville High School.
The new date and venue is in response to a vote by the APC Monday night to table the public hearing on a petition by the group Wind Project Concerned Citizens, which proposes amending the county’s setback distances for wind turbines from non-participating landowners.
The group has concerns about possible shadow flicker, noise, and other physical and environmental effects the wind turbines in the project might have on residents, and in response to those concerns has petitioned the APC that the county change its current setback ordinance for wind turbines from 1,000 feet to 2,640 feet, along with some additional noise level amendments, The petition is part of the group’s efforts to establish safeguards for those residents not participating in the proposed Whitewater Wind Farm by NextEra Energy Resources, they state.
The Whitewater Wind Farm project 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, if it comes to fruition, would bring 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, in addition to about $2 million in economic development payments to Fayette County over the first six years of a 10-year tax abatement the county approved for NextEra earlier this year.
In its contract with the county, NextEra has guaranteed a setback distance of 1,400 feet for non-participating landowners from a wind turbine.
The Robert E. Wise center was chosen, according to an email from MacDaniel to APC boardmembers Wednesday, at the suggestion of Connersville Fire Department Chief Troy Tipton. The APC had also been looking at having the public hearing in the John H. Miller Community Center in Roberts Park.
“Fire Chief Tipton asked that I try to have the meeting there, rather than the Miller Building, due to fixed seating and wide aisles,” MacDaniel wrote in the email. “Chief Tipton also suggested that we have more of a police presence than we had on Monday.”
The Robert E. Wise location can seat a maximum of 1,165 people, per Connersville High School staff, while the John H. Miller location can seat up to 437, according to MacDaniel.
Meanwhile, regarding Monday’s situation with an overflow crowd at the APC’s meeting at Connersville City Hall, Connersville Mayor Leonard Urban said the situation could have been avoided had an offer by the city been accepted.
MacDaniel on Monday, in responding to a question from the audience about the overflow crowd – especially those standing outside city hall – and the inability of many to hear or see the APC proceedings, said “unfortunately, I don’t think the city of Connersville (has) anything set up to broadcast out there. The reason why they’re doing this is because there’s fire and building codes concerning occupancy levels.”
Urban, however, said he offered the county the use of either the John H. Miller location or the James Roberts Memorial Building for the APC’s meeting Monday, but never received a response.
“I did offer them to use either building at the park a month ago,” Urban said. “I offered that they could use that for free … I don’t even know why they would consider having it in that little room (city council chambers) down here. I offered it to them and I even suggested it to them, to both parties. I said you could use either one of those buildings to have your meeting in. I’ll arrange it.
“I never heard anything from them and the next thing I know, they’re having it down here,” Urban said. “You can seat about 30 people in there … they never got back to us. I was shocked when I heard they were going to have it here.”
MacDaniel, however, did not remember such an offer from the city for a larger venue to hold the APC meeting in.
“Frankly, I don’t recall the offer,” MacDaniel wrote in an email to the News-Examiner. “That isn’t to say it wasn’t made. I don’t recall. What was the date that the offer was made? Was the offer made via phone, mail or email? If the offer was made ‘weeks’ before the meeting and was not formally made, it could easily have slipped through a crack.”
Urban said he thought it was good that the public hearing had been moved to a larger venue for its second go-around, in order to accommodate all who want to attend.
“In America, we should have an open meeting,” he said.
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