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Fulton County leaders vote down wind rules; Residents respond with gratitude

ROCHESTER – Fulton County Commissioners received applause, cheers and a standing ovation from many of those who packed a building at the county’s fairgrounds Monday night after voting down measures that would have paved the way for proposed wind turbines.

Commissioners Bryan Lewis and Rick Ranstead voted 2-0 Nov. 20 to remove the county’s commercial wind ordinance from its zoning ordinance.

A proposed ordinance had been before the commissioners that would have changed setback rules for commercial wind turbines in the county. County officials had been considering the new rules ever since Renewable Energy Systems, or RES, came to the area with the hopes of erecting wind turbines in Fulton, Cass and Miami counties.

In a prepared statement at Monday’s meeting, Lewis commented on how divisive the matter has been.

“I never thought we would have an issue presented before us that was such an emotional issue,” he said.

Lewis also recalled the time, thought and research county officials have devoted to the proposal.

“There are people who would like the project and a lot of people who do not want the project,” he said.

Lewis said Fulton County residents he’s talked to that don’t live near where the turbines were being proposed had told him they didn’t mind the project, but wouldn’t want to live near them. That led him to conclude if people didn’t want to live near the turbines, “then why would I want to impose something on the people that very few would want to live close to?”

“Although the monetary gain could be big, money’s not the most important factor to consider,” Lewis continued. “We have quality of life to consider. Being part of a community means getting along, being good neighbors and helping out one another through tough times. I feel if I vote in favor of the current ordinance before us, we may jeopardize this in our community.

“As a commissioner, I feel it is one of my roles to look out for and listen to the people in situations like this,” he added.

Ranstead said he didn’t like the way the proposal was “tearing the community apart.”

Fulton County Attorney Greg Heller said the commissioners’ decision will go to the county’s area plan commission, which will have 45 days to accept or reject it. If rejected, the commissioners would have to hold a reaffirming vote, Heller added.

The majority of attendees’ comments expressed thanks for the commissioners’ time, effort and consideration, while one criticized the decision for preventing local union laborers from benefiting from the work that would have resulted from the project in Fulton County.

Aaron Ault, representing the Fulton County, IN Property Rights Group, which opposed the proposed project, commended the commissioners for their decision.

“This fight truly has been like David and Goliath,” Ault said. “Fulton County citizens and landowners banded together to fight a multinational company and a sincere thank-you goes to Commissioners Lewis and Ranstead…”

An RES representative did not return requests for comment Tuesday.