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Wind ordinance to be reviewed

The Henry County Commissioners have decided the local “wind ordinance” should be revisited and revised as needed.

Following nearly 90 minutes of discussion at Wednesday’s meeting of the county leaders, commissioner Butch Baker made a motion to have Henry County Planning Commission Zoning Administrator Darrin Jacobs develop a recommendation regarding the creation of a committee tasked with reviewing the existing wind energy conversion system (WECS) ordinance.

Jacobs is being asked to present his recommendation regarding creation of such a committee at the June 22 commissioners’ meeting. If the commissioners approve of the plan Jacobs presents, the committee would begin and complete the review process as quickly as possible.

“That committee would hold numerous public meetings, take input, research, look at what they need to do, check with surrounding counties and then come up with any modifications that they want to bring back to us for changes in the ordinance,” Baker explained.

Any suggested changes to the WECS ordinance would have to be approved and adopted by the commissioners before they went into effect.

Baker’s motion was seconded by commissioner Ed Yanos and passed unanimously.

The two wind farm projects sponsored by Apex and NextEra, which are already underway, would not be impacted by any future changes to the WECS ordinance.

Commissioner Kim Cronk broached the subject of reviewing the WECS ordinance. He noted the existing ordinance dates back to 2011 and said it should be reviewed and updated as needed.

“I think the wind ordinance should go back to the planning commission. They could develop a schedule for public meetings to receive public input to review the current ordinance that we have,” Cronk said.

Cronk suggested the planning commission be tasked with creating a review committee comprised of one representative from both the county council and the county commissioners, a representative from the economic development corporation, another from the planning commission, three farmers (one each from the southern, middle and northern parts of the county) and three non-farmers (also from the southern, middle and northern parts of the county).

Following that suggestion, several members of the large audience in attendance shared their thoughts about the possible development of wind farms in Henry County. Not for the first time, concerns about potential adverse health effects resulting from wind turbine placement were voiced. A potential decrease in property values near wind turbine sites was also a point of contention. Several indicated they felt like their previously expressed concerns had fallen on deaf ears and that the county leaders weren’t listening to the people they were elected to represent.

Eventually, Cronk made a motion in keeping with the ordinance review process he had already expressed. That motion died for lack of a second. Both Yanos and Baker expressed reservations about dictating to the planning commission how a WECS ordinance review committee should be comprised. They noted that the planning commission successfully put together a committee to review the county’s CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) ordinance a couple of years ago and should be free to do likewise with respect to wind farms.

Cronk also suggested a committee be formed to consider an ordinance covering renewable energy sources other than wind. As an example, he pointed out the county currently has nothing on the books regarding development of solar farms. Baker said he agreed this issue needs addressed, but said the WECS ordinance should be a priority and no action regarding a renewable energy committee was taken at Wednesday’s meeting.