To the cheers of wind farm opponents, the Miami County Plan/Building Commission voted 5-2 on Wednesday night in favor of considering drastic changes to the county’s existing wind ordinance.
Over the past few months, a special committee consisting of the commission members Jason Bowman, Brad Fruth and Jon Reibly created the draft of changes in response to the prospects of Renewable Energy Systems proposal to build 75 wind turbines in Miami County.
Among the new requirements set forth in the document:
The center of the base of the wind tower would have to be measured 2,000 feet away from a property line, public road right-of-way, railroads, public utility easements, public conservation lands and the incorporated limits of a municipality or platted community. The current setback is 1,000 feet from a residence.
Substation setbacks from property lines may not be waived unless a recorded written waiver agreement is secured from the affected adjoining non-participating landowner.
An applicant’s obligations shall include removal of all physical material pertaining to the project improvements to no less than a depth of 10 feet below ground level within 365 days of the discontinuation or abandonment of the project, and restoration to the project area to as near as practicable the condition of the site immediately before construction.
Miami County Commissioner Larry West, who is also on the plan/building commission, pointed out that there is a 46-page document on this topic alone already being worked on.
The county would require either remediation of road repairs upon completion of the project or is authorized to collect fees for oversized load permits. The County Commissioners, Highway Superintendent, and the Miami County Highway Engineer can require a corporate surely bond to insure the county that future repairs are completed to the satisfaction of the County Commissioners.
The committee looked exclusively at ordinances from other Indiana counties. All but one of the approximately 25 county ordinances they reviewed with similar setbacks were counties where there were no wind turbines, according to Fruth.
The one county that did, Tipton, changed its ordinance to its present version after the first round of turbines were built – and no additional turbines have been built since.
“I assume that the committee, by putting in these setback requirements, it’s basically saying we don’t want wind towers,” said West. “It basically kills the project.”
Area resident Larry Harts, asked why they didn’t just ban the turbines to make it simpler.
Macy resident Becky Mahoney addressed the commission before the vote, a sea of yellow “No Wind” t-shirts behind her.
“We’re looking for heroes,” Mahoney said. “Somebody wants money in their pocket or somebody wants quality of life. Who are you going to honor, the dollar or the life?”
As part of her presentation, she revealed a scale model of an about 800 ft. tall wind turbine next to a house created by Carl Lowe and Dan Thiry. Various individuals around the room also held up posters with pictures of turbine height scales and county birds they believe would be threatened by the project.
Mahoney also turned in a petition with 887 signatures from county citizens to request a setback of 2,640 ft.
Resident Ethan West, who moved into the county three years ago, said owning 10 acres was more than he ever dreamed of. And while he said he understands that we have to get energy somewhere – and he doesn’t like that they blast off mountaintops in West Virginia – he was concerned about the county “selling out.”
Ron Whithers said wind farms may work in less crowded communities, but there are too many people in Miami County. He said there could be potential safety hazards, and is glad that the commission considered those in their new recommendations. “Like many people here, I appreciate the work you guys have put in,” he told the commission.
Bowman, Fruth, Lynette Smith, Corey Roser and Gregg Wilkinson voted yes. West and Ralph Duckwall voted no.
“I don’t want to see any harm to come to any of you people,” Smith said.
Bowman said both sides weren’t going to be happy, but he looked at the side present in the room more than the other.
Duckwall said he voted no because he was considering the farmers’ rights to use their land. “This may eliminate an opportunity for them,” he said.
Duckwall said he spoke with White County residents and Purdue University wind energy researchers and received positive feedback about wind farms.
To pass the new ordinance, Bowman said the plan/building commission will need to publish the ordinance draft in the newspaper prior to their next meeting on April 11, and then hold a public hearing.
Ultimately, Miami County Commissioners will have the final vote. Only West and Commissioner Alan Hunt will vote, as Commissioner Josh Francis recused himself from any votes regarding the wind farm due to his employment with RES.
If it’s a split vote, Miami County Attorney Pat Roberts said “why don’t we wait and see” if we get to that point, because “if is the biggest word in the English language.”
[NWW note: Before starting to work this year at The Peru Tribune, Caroline Eggers worked for the Washington, DC–based industry lobby group American Wind Energy Association as well as strategic advisory firm David Gardiner and Associates, whose home web page features a photo of giant wind turbines and whose clients include the AWEA, the Wind Energy Foundation, and other “green energy” advocates.]
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding