Both commercial wind farms and Confined Feeding Operations (CFOs) are more difficult to bring to Wabash County after the passage of two new ordinances by the county commissioners.
Ordinance 2017-85-09 places further restrictions on Wind Energy Conservation Systems (WECS), and Ordinance 2017-85-10 makes the county’s previous CFO ordinance more strict.
Plan Commission Director Mike Howard presented both proposed ordinances to the commissioners at their Dec. 18 meeting.
“The Wabash County Plan Commission has been in the process of the wind ordinance for the county, and also while we were doing that we took a look at a couple of things we’d like to change to the confined feeding ordinance for the county,” he said.
The change to the Wind Energy Conservation System (WECS) ordinance is a result of innovations in the commercial wind turbine industry making it easier for turbines to meet the county’s previous version of the ordinance.
The previous version of the ordinance, passed in October 2016, limited the amount of time that shadow flicker could be detected on a non-participating property, required that turbine owners install shadow flicker countermeasures, required a setback of one-half mile from a non-participating residential or business structure and set a maximum allowable noise level of 32 decibels detectable outside of a non-participating structure.
Howard said that a company planning a wind farm in Cass, Fulton and Miami counties approached Wabash County about participating, and informed him that the previous setback of a half mile from a non-participating residential structure was doable.
The lowest permissible noise decibel level of 32 decibels, however, was unobtainable for the company, Howard said.
“We felt like with the progress we’re seeing and the possibility and potential for Wabash County… we did increase our setback from a non-participant residential structure to three-quarters of a mile,” Howard said.
Additions that were not previously part of the ordinance included a setback of three-eighths of a mile from a participating residential structure, and requiring that vibrations created by the turbine not be detectable on a non-participating property.
The updated ordinance also requires a setback of 1,000 feet or twice the height of the turbine, whichever is more restrictive, from a public road, and prohibits any shadow flicker on a non-participating property.
Howard and Commissioners Chair Scott Givens have both previously said that the county government is opposed to commercial wind farms for a variety of economic reasons. Before the vote, Commissioner Barry Epply added his thoughts on the matter.
“The wind farms that I’ve become aware of, the energy generated is likely to leave Wabash County and may or may not return to the citizens of the county, the property tax revenue would be modest at best, and the economic quality of place efforts around the City of Wabash and Wabash County would not be enhanced by the presence of large commercial wind turbines,” he said.
“… If there’s a groundswallow of citizens who support wind farms, or if the property tax situation is more lucrative that I have come believe, or if the energy produced can be used locally by citizens of Wabash County at a lower rate, then this ordinance can be amended again to accommodate it at a later date.
“Once the turbines are in place, we’re a generation or two or three from the conclusion of their existence.”
The commissioners unanimously passed the updated WECS ordinance on first reading, suspended the rules and unanimously passed it on second reading.
For CFOs, the new restrictions limit the ability to build within the setback area of an existing CFO.
“One of the things that we felt like we’d like to make a change in was, applicants were allowed to apply for a variance in the setback of 1,320 feet from neighboring residential structures. We changed that to where… the neighboring property is [owned] by a member of the immediate family, and we have a definition of who that would be,” Howard said.
“The other part of the ordinance that we changed, we require screening and allow for a variance of that.”
Howard noted that previously, those variance requests went straight to his desk, rather than before the board.
“We determined that we didn’t want it to be that way, so we just made screens be mandatory if you’re going to be 300 feet or less from the property line,” he said.
As with the WECS ordinance, the commissioners unanimously passed the CFO ordinance on first reading, suspended the rules and unanimously passed it on second reading.
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