The ordinance governing “wind farm” development in Henry County will be reviewed and possibly amended by the Henry County Commissioners following more than seven hours of testimony from the public Monday and Tuesday evening.
The commissioners will meet in special session at 10 a.m. Oct. 18 in the old circuit courtroom of the Henry County Courthouse to begin the ordinance review process. Joining in the discussion will be two property owners who have voiced support for the development of wind farms in Henry County and two who have voiced concerns about the negative effects industrial wind turbines may have on health and property values. Members of the Henry County Planning Commission and Henry County Council also are invited to the meeting.
Commissioner Kim Cronk said a concerned citizens group, who are generally opposed to wind farm development, have been asked to appoint two representatives to serve on the review panel he suggested at the conclusion of Tuesday night’s meeting. He also said the citizens who have been publicly supportive of wind farm development will likewise be given an opportunity to name their two representatives to the review panel.
“We’re going to review the existing ordinance line by line to see if there is any mutual agreement on changes to it. Then it will go to the (planning) commissioners for a final decision,” Cronk said.
Cronk also said he appreciates the public input provided on this matter.
“On both sides of the issue, I thought they were very professional,” he said. “I think it was very much worth our time to listen to both sides and we appreciate everyone’s input. I think it’s important we listen to the people and we did. Now, whether we change the ordinance or not, we need to finalize this matter and move it forward to the planning commission.”
Commissioner Ed Yanos also shared his thoughts on this week’s public meetings.
“We had seven hours of testimony and I thought most of the people made professional, respectful presentations,” he said. “It was a shame it degraded in the last 10 minutes [Tuesday] night.”
Yanos’ last comment is in reference to the loud and disorderly reaction many members of the audience exhibited after Cronk suggested the commissioners and representatives from both sides of the wind issue meet to review the WECS ordinance. It was suggested the “pro wind” side should not have equal representation based on the number of people who spoke against wind development versus those who spoke in favor of it. Others suggested a draft ordinance supplied by the concerned citizens group should be adopted as presented, without additional input or change.
As for whether or not he felt Monday and Tuesday’s meetings were helpful, Yanos offered the following: “The commissioners and the planning commission are charged with doing any revisions to ordinances. We appreciate the public’s input, but the public needs to understand we were elected to do this.”
Twenty-four people shared their thoughts and concerns with the county leaders Tuesday. Three spoke in favor of wind farm development in Henry County and 21 shared concerns.
David Chambers was among those who spoke in favor. He noted wind farm development would provide the county and many of its citizens with much-needed cash, that the two independent, anti-wind candidates who ran for county commissioner during the last election cycle were both handily defeated and that the turbines are an environmentally-friendly alternative for energy production.
Most of those who shared concerns about industrial wind turbines coming to Henry County spoke about proximity to turbines causing a variety of health issues including heart trouble, high blood pressure, headaches and sleep deprivation. A decrease in property values and people moving out of the county or not moving into the county because of the presence of turbines was also mentioned several times, as was the possibility the turbines would stunt economic growth. Turbine blade failure, large chunks of ice thrown from turbine blades, turbine fires and oil and hydraulic fluid leaks were also mentioned a number of times. Noise and setback distances were concerns nearly all who spoke referenced.
Dr. Merrill Morey, an anesthesiologist at Henry Community Health, was among those who expressed concern. He said he was not opposed to wind turbines, but is opposed to placing them near people. He said infrasound, a low-frequency noise associated with industrial wind turbines, has been linked to a variety of medical problems. He suggested turbines be sited at least 1.5 kilometers from homes and that noise from the turbines be limited to 40 decibels or less.
Ted Hartke was another who shared concerns about industrial wind turbines. Hartke, who visited from Vermillion County, Illinois, said he was originally a wind turbine supporter. After several were sited near his rural home, his family began to experience problems sleeping and eventually had to abandon their home, he said. He suggested setbacks of at least 2,580 feet from the nearest dwelling and a noise cap of less than 35 decibels.
Should the commissioners decide to amend the WECS ordinance, they would have to conduct a public hearing on the proposed changes. The amended ordinance would then be forwarded to the Henry County Planning Commission. The planning commission would have the option of making changes to the ordinance, leaving it as the commissioners recommended and passing it, or not acting on it. The commissioners would then have the final vote on the matter.
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