For a number of years, rural and city residents have silently been choosing sides on should energy producing wind turbines become a part of the county’s landscape. However, in recent months, as the possible reality of wind turbines nears, the silence has been broken, with those for and against the issue willing to discuss their side of the matter.
Currently, county leaders are weighing the situation, gathering information and listening to those on both sides of the issue regarding the placement of 600-foot towers on rural property. Earlier this week, a number of county officials made a trip to Benton County and spoke with that county’s leaders and residents to gain still another aspect of what has become a controversial topic locally.
From a monetary perspective, the county would realize growth. Rural property owners who agree and meet required area plan and board of zoning appeals requirements would also benefit monetarily. By harnessing the wind, energy companies would be adhering to federal requirements to seek means other than coal to produce electricity.
Those against wind turbines have raised a number of counter arguments ranging from possible health issues (unfounded), noise issues and ground vibration concerns and flickering concerns. Those against have also said that the turbines are unsightly, kill birds and may have an impact on livestock (again unsubstantiated by documentation).
Currently, two companies are seeking to place wind turbines in the county, NextEra has already entered into an agreement with the county and been approved for tax abatement, although they have not yet filed the necessary permit paperwork to begin construction.
A second company, expressing interest locally, APEX, has not yet been approved for a tax abatement and is currently going through the permit process, prior to seeking county approval on the possibility of obtaining a tax abatement.
A number of property owners in the northern part of Rush County have been approached about placing wind turbines on their property. There are a number of requirements in place regarding county ordinances, setback distances, county road access and the amount of acreage required for the placement of wind turbines.
Rush County resident Steve Schwering owns rural property, however his property does not meet the requirements currently in place.
“Basically, a person should be able to do or build what they want on their property, so long as it does not affect someone else and we have rule in place and guidelines that we (the county) has hashed over for a number of years. So if a property owner meets the criteria currently in place, it should not be an issue,” Schwering said.
He continued by saying that even though his property does not meet the necessary requirements, he is still for allowing wind turbines.
“Because of the setbacks and other things, our family is not be eligible to get a turbine and I wish that would change because we would love to have one. Even though we won’t be getting one, to me it just makes good economic sense,” Schwering said.
Currently, only the northern part of the county has been targeted by the energy companies for wind turbine placement.
Farmer Jeff Slaton lives in southern Rush County and is pleased to this point with the due diligence county leaders are using prior to making their decision.
When asked his thoughts on the wind turbine issue, Slaton said he is all for seeking new means to generate power.
“I think anytime you use green energy it is a good idea – now do the advantages outweigh the cost on the other end, that is the question. There’s a lot of things our county leaders have to and are looking at. We had a group that went up to Benton County recently although I was not able to go on that one. I plan on going to Winchester to see for myself,” Slaton said.
He continued by saying that there is an abundance of information readily available on both sides of the issue if one is willing to take the time and effort to seek it out and read it.
“I think you have to weigh everything and the last thing you need to do is go and look for yourself and see what you think,” Slaton said.
When asked that although by living in the southern part of the county should the opportunity arise would he consider placing a wind turbine on his property, Slaton was not so sure.
“I probably would not put one on my property. I value our land and we have fought hard to keep it and I plan to keep it that way,” Slaton said.
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