More than 150 people attended a public meeting Tuesday at Memorial Park to hear from Responsible Wind, a local non-profit education group.
The program, entitled “Wind Energy in Henry County,” included presentations about the current forecast of economic growth for Henry County, discussion about possibly revising the ordinance that regulates wind turbines in Henry County and a demonstration of the current proposed distances turbines have to be from properties.
According to the group’s Facebook page, Responsible Wind is “focused on ensuring citizens are informed, prepared, and able to act effectively to protect their homes and surroundings with responsible wind energy practices.”
Wind farm opponent Gary Rodgers showed a presentation simulating how the current mandatory setback distances from wind towers could affect neighboring properties.
By the time Rodgers was done speaking, the county home on his map had been carved up and covered in red circles as hypothetical turbines sprung up on surrounding lands.
Liberty Township property owner Bill Groves attended the meeting and worries if his land will be worth anything in the future if wind farms come into the area. Groves expects his kids to inherit that land and possibly build on it one day.
Groves is also curious about exactly who gets the federal government subsidies that have been set aside for wind turbines.
“I’m not seeing who’s making the money on this. It sure isn’t going to be the land owner. And I’m saying right now the land owner needs to deserve to get something.”
Groves said neighboring land owners deserve some sort of financial compensation, too, since they effectively lose the use of part of their property that falls under the setbacks.
Jim McShirley, a businessman from Sulphur Springs, believes that wind farms could hurt Henry County’s commercial and residential growth.
McShirley presented census data at the Responsible Wind meeting that showed population movement around Indiana between 2010 and 2015. The graph indicated significant growth around Indianapolis and Marion County.
“We’re right at a crosshairs,” McShirley said. “The growth coming out of there… the primary driving force of this economic activity is heading northeast. It’s heading right to Henry County.”
Henry County is a very wealthy county that is choosing to be poor, he said.
McShirley said current plans to build industrial wind turbines in different parts of the county make it seem like residents do not want to accept “this tremendous opportunity that’s coming.”
“There’s no homes that will be built under turbines, there’s no economic development. There’s no anything, other than just turbines and desolation,” McShirley said. “Don’t let them wall us off. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Responsible Wind Executive Director Melissa Elmore gave the audience a brief history of the three wind projects that are looking at Henry County.
Elmore told the audience that members of Responsible Wind are appealing two April 20 votes by the Henry County Planning Commission that would allow wind measuring towers to be built in the northern half of the county.
Elmore also talked about planning commission approvals that are about to expire for two other wind farm projects. The planning commission is scheduled to hear extension requests from those projects in June.
“Now is the time for our community to come together to create a safe, responsible way of doing business with wind energy companies through the [wind energy conversion system] ordinance,” Elmore said.
Responsible Wind speaker Rosalind Richey was involved with a committee last year that was tasked with reviewing Henry County’s wind ordinance. Richey told the Responsible Wind attendees that although the public committee had dissolved, she had continued working on an alternative ordinance.
Richey summarized highlights of the proposed ordinance and told how it included language for half-mile turbine setbacks, industrial vibration limits and strong non-compliance enforcement rules.
“We have done a lot of research. We’ve read a lot of ordinances, we’ve read a lot of studies,” Richey said. “As we have compiled this revision, we know that it is not perfect. But it certainly does provide vastly better protection for the people of Henry County.”
Richey said a full version of the proposed ordinance can be downloaded at www.responsiblewind.net.
Rodgers also brought a 1:100 scale model wind turbine on stage to show the audience what something like that could look like near a Henry County home.
Using 15 feet of thick rope, Rodgers showed where turbines might sit in relation to homes.
“The distances get very real once these things get built. Until then, while they’re all on paper, 1,500 feet seems like a long way,” Rodgers said. “It would be a really long way for me to sprint. It would be a long way for me to carry my car. But it’s not very far when you’re talking about an industrial wind turbine.”
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