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Warren County amends wind farm ordinance

The Warren County Commission approved amendments to tweak the county zoning ordinance on siting regulations for wind energy at a public meeting held at 8 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 4.

All three Commission members voted in favor of the amended ordinance.

The amendments previously were recommended by the Area Plan Commission, at a public meeting held Tuesday, July 26, with all members voting in favor.

Consideration of the four amendments was requested by commissioners, said attorney John Larson at the Area Plan Commission meeting.

The requested changes come ahead of the county’s potential first wind power project, expected for the northwestern corner of Warren.

An application for Special Exception to place a 150-wind turbine farm in Warren County is anticipated by the end of 2016 from Orion Renewable Energy Group, according to County Commissioner Steve Eberly.

The proposed amendments will do four things: repeal an existing, vague provision and replace it with language that sets a maximum permitted sound level within 200 feet of a residential dwelling; delete the old language regarding permitted sound levels; correct language about the process to appeal, to state appeals of Board of Zoning Appeals decisions go through the Warren Circuit Court; and include a declaration of fees with regard to wind energy siting.

The noise level amendments are meant to bring the county’s wind zoning ordinances into alignment with limits set in Benton County, where Orion currently operates a wind farm.

“I believe we kind of feel that what we’ve added to this is more or less an industry standard, if you will,” said John Kuiper, county zoning director.

The commercial fee set under the proposed amendment for a WECS application is $20,000. The fee for a WECS improvement location permit would be $1,750 per megawatt of capacity.

In the case of a wind farm with 150 turbines, the county could reap about $525,000 in fees. Commissioners discussed the need to dedicate that money toward hiring an everyday on-site liaison between the company and county.

Their recommendation allows the County Commission to take up consideration of the amendments, a discussion initially set for Monday, Aug. 1.

That County Commission discussion was tabled for 72 hours to allow commission members Tom Hetrick, Tony Briles and Eberly time to consider research completed by audience member Lyn Martin.

Martin spoke of concerns regarding infrasound, low frequency sounds that are inaudible to human hearing.

At the Commission meeting held Thursday, Aug. 4, dozens of residents attended to list their concerns about wind turbines in the community.