New Castle-Henry County’s Board of Aviation Commissioners learned Monday night there is another proposal by Flatrock Wind LLC to erect 41 wind turbines in southern Henry County. Board members reacted swiftly to the news, delivered by airport manager John Marlatt, unanimously passing a motion to send the Federal Aviation Administration a letter opposing the project.
“It’s bad for the airport,” Marlatt said. “There’s nothing good about this from the airport’s standpoint.”
Officials said presence of new wind turbines, particularly due to their height, could affect flight operations or patterns.
Marlatt told board members larger aircraft, in particular, would be impacted. “The larger the aircraft is, the more it will affect them,” he said.
“In round numbers, the towers that are at least the closest will affect the instrument approaches in the neighborhood of 300 feet – some a little less, others a little more,” Marlatt said. “Basically what it amounts to is within four miles of the airport, wind turbines would start affecting our instrument approaches.”
“The FAA makes big margins for error – and should,” New Castle Mayor Greg York, also an aviation board member, said. “This motion isn’t saying we’re necessarily against wind farms. This is saying that we would oppose those that are close. We don’t want this to affect the landing strip of the new runway.”
“We’re trying to generate more traffic for the airport,” Woolport Engineering representative Ryan Robinson said. “This (the wind turbine project) is not going to help at all.”
Board member Corey Murphy – who is also president and CEO of the New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corporation – emphasized the announcement of another wind turbine project doesn’t mean construction will start tomorrow.
“This is a separate filing with the Federal Aviation Administration that they need to do and it’s different from local zoning. They don’t have local zoning approval. They don’t have tax abatement approval, either.”
Murphy provided a brief history lesson on Flatrock’s previous wind efforts here.
“The two southern projects for wind are the oldest and they pre-date me by several years,” Murphy said. “The two projects went back to the planning commission and asked for an extension of their commission-approved use. And the county planning commission politely declined to renew their request.”
“So even though wind continues to be a hot topic in the local community, there aren’t any wind projects that have approval in Henry County. Zero. None,” Murphy said.
The EDC took a position and issued an open letter in August 2016 that it would not seek new wind farm development in Henry County.
Airport board members said a letter of opposition to the FAA was also appropriate because of the recently completed runway project.
“We opened the new runway on the 29th of March,” Marlatt said. “Everything is pretty much in service. The runway is in fine shape. Everybody’s pretty tickled with it who have used it so far.”
Board members also discussed tentatively scheduling a grand opening ceremony to share the airport’s recent runway improvements with the public at noon on Monday, July 23. The ceremony will also include official renaming of the facility as the Marlatt Airport, in honor of the family that started the facility in 1952.
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