A group of concerned citizens is asking the Henry County Commissioners to amend three ordinances they have been considering to provide more protections and safeguards to local residents from any future wind energy developments that might take place.
Amendments to the county’s development code in three specific areas – access and entry to county highways, installation of utilities in a county right-of-way and installation of utilities in a regulated drain – were introduced for consideration when the commissioners met Oct. 26.
Wednesday, local businessman and resident Gary Rodgers appeared before the county leaders with a list of suggestions for potential changes to those ordinances he indicated would better safeguard the county from wind development projects.
“For each of the proposed ordinances, we recommend adding a concise section that states the ordinance does not pertain to WECS (wind energy conversion systems), and that all requirements pertaining to WECS are to be included in the revised WECS ordinance,” Rodgers said while reading from a prepared statement. “If this is not satisfactory, each of the three ordinances would require its own section that pertains specifically to WECS.”
Rodgers went on to say that because of the scale and duration of wind energy projects, taxpayers must be better protected with more stringent roadway and easement requirements, higher permit fees, higher bond fees and long-term usage costs across the board.
He also suggested several additional WECS items should be addressed and incorporated into the development code by either adding them to each of the three ordinances being discussed or to a revised WECS ordinance.
Those additional items included requiring the wind developer to hire an independent civil engineer to specify standards required for the project and to provide installation supervision and quality control inspections throughout all phases of the project.
As well, Rodgers asked the commissioners to consider requiring the developer to provide public notice to nearby property owners anytime their project involves use of county rights-of-way, regulated drains or easements and to charge the developer a usage fee based on each linear foot of county-owned property they are traverse. Rodgers noted that private property owners with lease agreements for wind turbines are paid such a fee and suggested the county should be too.
The suggestions, which Rodgers said were drafted with the assistance of Casey Kubak and Vernon Cherrett, also included prohibiting wind developers from using county rights-of-way, regulated drains or easements for storing materials, vehicles or assembly components for a period of time exceeding 24 hours.
Nearly 40 minutes was devoted to this topic with comments made by county surveyor Steve Rust, highway department engineer Joe Copeland, the commissioners and the county’s attorney, Joel Harvey.
Harvey said adding language to the three ordinances that states they do not apply to wind development wouldn’t present a problem. He also indicated he would like time to review the other suggestions being made.
No action was taken by the commissioners, though Rodgers’ suggestions and a related document were officially entered into the record of the meeting. Harvey is expected to offer his opinion on the matter when the county leaders next meet at 6 p.m. Nov. 16 on the second floor of the Henry County Courthouse, 101 S. Main St., New Castle.
The idea of passing Rodgers’ suggestions on to the WECS Ordinance Review Committee was also discussed.
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