Commissioners decided that additional information was needed before approving the county’s wind farm ordinance.
It’s the latest in a heated issue surrounding the attempted development of wind farms north of Crawfordsville. Montgomery County Commissioners were set to vote Monday on the changes made to the ordinance for noise regulation of wind turbines.
Though a mix of supporters and opponents packed the Crawfordsville City Council chambers, where the meeting was moved from the courthouse to accommodate an anticipated larger crowd, mostly those against wind farm development addressed their concerns during the allotted time for public comments.
“There are a lot of things that I believe have been left out of this ordinance that need to be addressed,” Miriah Mershong of rural Crawfordsville said. “One is the safe setback from our schools. Any one of us that have children in elementary school, high school, middle school, request safe setbacks from our schools. LifeLine helicopter is also a huge issue. LifeLine needs a one mile separation between wind turbines in order to fly between them due to the turbulence created. They also have to fly 300 feet over if there isn’t a one mile distance in between. If there is inclement weather, I really would hate to know that a family member was in an accident and LifeLine wasn’t able to get to them.”
The initial issue has been debated for nearly a year and a half, and since then commissioners have updated the ordinance’s language to reduce the maximum noise level for wind turbines from 60 decibels to 50 decibels. Additionally, a 1,500-foot buffer zone would be required between wind farms and the property lines of non-participating homeowners with up to five acres of land.
A two-year time limit would also be set on building permits for wind energy projects. And property owners could take developers to court for violating the ordinance, in addition to the companies being fined.
Now the concern for air medical services’ ability to operate properly adds a whole new element to the matter.
IU Health LifeLine and St. Vincent StatFlight both provide services for Montgomery County.
“I would like to do some follow-up to make sure we don’t have any issues with that,” commission president Jim Fulwider said. “I do have a concern with that if there is a possibility.”
When contacted by the Journal Review, Kate Morgan, LifeLine manager at IU Health, Indianapolis, said wind farms and turbines are treated as any other obstacle (wires, towers, buildings, etc.). She said LifeLine follows the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulations and maintains a 300 foot minimum above any obstacle that is within 1,000 feet horizontally. Those minimums increase at night to 500 feet above an obstacle that is within 2,000 feet horizontally.
Commissioner Phil Bane insisted on continuing with the ordinance’s vote as planned with the ability to make changes to the ordinance as needed.
“I felt like this was a reasonable compromise,” he said. “I don’t have a problem tabling it per se. This discussion has been taking place for a year and a half. … My personal opinion is, if you need to make adjustments further down the road, even on the zoning side of it, then that can happen. This ordinance is not written in stone. It’s not the Ten Commandments, it can change.”
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