Homeowners from opposite ends of the county tried a new strategy Thursday in their stand against wind turbines that could potentially come to the area.
Linda Jones lives north of Honey Creek. Sharon Mullen owns several parcels this side of Cambridge City. Neither of them use their land for farming. Jones and Mullen asked the Henry County Planning Commission to rezone their properties from Agricultural to Rural Residential.
These petitions are the most recent maneuver by wind farm opponents in a campaign to allegedly increase the mandatory distance between industrial wind turbines and neighboring properties.
“I’m here tonight requesting the rezoning of our property from agricultural to residential solely for the purpose of obtaining a greater setback in regards to the wind farms,” Jones said when she asked to have about three acres of land rezoned.
Over the past several years, Henry County officials have been in conversations with energy companies NextEra and Apex Clean Energy about building competing wind farms in townships along U.S. Hwy 40. Texas-based Calpine, which has a history in natural gas and geothermal energy creation, began sizing up the northern part of Henry County in 2015 as they considered expanding into the wind energy market.
A coalition of residents have been actively raising safety and health concerns about the prospect of having wind turbines that close to their property.
According to Henry County Development Code, the setbacks for a wind energy conversion system (WECS) built on farm land is 1.1 times the height of the tower itself. Most of the wind turbines proposed for Henry County would be about 500 feet, so they would only have to be 550 feet away from the adjacent parcels.
The same ordinance states that WECS towers have to be at least 1,500 feet away from residential zoning districts.
“When I found out that it could be as close as 550 feet to my house, I began to see what measures I could take to protect our house, our property value and our quality of life,” Jones said.
Jones brought up “added noise pollution, light and shadow flicker” that wind turbines could add to her community. She also claimed a nearby WECS would have a “devastating effect” on her property value.
Neighbor Shannon Arnstein supported Jones’s rezoning request.
“She’s doing what is in her control to keep these intrusions out of her backyard,” Arnstein said.
Larry Keller from Fayette County considered the request an example of “spot zoning” and opposed the change because he didn’t feel that Jones had made an adequate argument for rezoning.
Zoning administrator Darrin Jacobs explained that rural residential land can basically only be used for home occupation.
The Henry County Planning Commission voted 7-1 to recommend the rezoning request. Henry County Commissioner Ed Yanos was the lone dissenting vote. Yanos said he would have voted in favor if Jones had cited any reasons other than wind turbines to make the change.
“When I hear the first thing out of the applicant’s mouth is to make a setback greater for a wind farm that pretty well’s never going to happen, I think we’ve gotten to a level of ridiculousness in this county,” Yanos said.
Mullen owns several parcels in the southeastern corner of Henry County. She asked to have only the acre and a half around her home to be rezoned to rural residential. Mullen sported a neon ‘No Wind Farm’ shirt while making her request before the planning commission.
“I just want to try to live my life as normal as possible,” Mullen said. “I just want it to be set back as far as I can. That’s all I’m trying to do, make me safer, my family safer and protect the value of my home… I’m just trying to protect what I have.”
Several people spoke in favor of Mullen’s request, calling her and Jones “proactive” with their requests. Keller again claimed that the move could be an example of spot zoning and give preferential opportunity to the property owners.
The vote passed 6-2, with Yanos and planning commissioner Steve Dugger voting against.
The rezoning requests will go before the Henry County Commissioners for a final vote Wednesday.
The Courier-Times will continue coverage of Thursday’s planning commission meeting in an upcoming edition as the three-hour meeting covered a multitude of topics.
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