FAYETTEVILLE – A proposed wind farm project west of Springdale has cleared its first official hurdle after the county judge of Washington County filed an order allowing the project site to be annexed into a nearby town.
Dragonfly Industries International, the owner and potential developer of the unincorporated 300-acre plot, hopes to join Elm Springs, a town of fewer than 2,000 people neighboring Springdale and Tontitown. The approval of Marilyn Edwards, county judge of Washington County, is the first step in that process.
July 20 is the deadline for appealing her decision to circuit court. If there’s no appeal, the issue would go before the Elm Springs City Council this month.
The company hopes to build dozens of turbines for the state’s first wind farm and supply several megawatts of power to the area. Its proposal has stoked intense opposition from neighbors and Elm Springs residents who fear it could affect safety and property values.
Edwards’ role in the process wasn’t to decide whether the project is a good one but to make sure the landowners followed the rules set by state law in their annexation bid, county attorney Steve Zega said.
Dragonfly first approached Elm Springs, which borders the land on its eastern side, about the project late last year. The company plans to use an uncommon shrouded or ducted turbine that resembles a jet engine and is smaller than the turbines spinning above much of the country.
“It’s been tested, it’s been proven, and we know exactly what it’s going to do and how it’s going to perform,” Phillip Ridings, the system’s designer, said during a packed town hall meeting in March. He added the system would solve the noise, annoyance and danger of the typical three-bladed design, calling it “the silver bullet for wind energy.”
J.R. Carroll, a Fayetteville lawyer who represented the company at the hearing in June, said the annexation would be good for Elm Springs.
“I think everyone would agree every city in Northwest Arkansas is growing,” Carroll said. “If there’s going to be growth by Elm Springs, it has to be west.”
Opposition slowly has intensified for months, with neighbors saying the turbines’ lights and sounds will be an annoyance at best and dangerous for their health at worst. They say they’re also concerned property values would decline and local wildlife would be affected.
Dragonfly CEO Jody Davis said at the town hall that towers would be at least 1,000 feet from property lines because of such concerns, and the project would go forward with or without annexation.
Jonathon Hamby, a neighbor of the land who has rallied the opposition, said his arguments are falling on deaf ears at Elm Springs’ City Hall.
“Nobody seems to want to be on our side,” he said. “I’m just trying to save my family’s future.”
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