Currently, a small number of our leaders and elected officials are supporting the development of wind farms in our county. Comparatively, such support seems to ignore the protests of well over 1,000 residents standing in opposition.
This particular issue would not be the first important decision to be pressed without some type of reasonably accurate measure of public sentiment. Some might say a good leader simply could listen to the people and then act on their behalf. However, asking the wind company, personal acquaintances or business partners what they think is not the same as listening to constituents. Citing statistics from the wind company that provide only positives and no negatives should be a red flag.
Just because the opposition is not offering royalties or cash does not mean their opinion is less valid. Should money be the only consideration? In the case of wind farms, the value of land is a hot topic and a major concern.
The term visual pollution defines something that detracts value. Any dictionary will define visual pollution roughly as an aesthetic issue and refers to the impacts of pollution that impair one’s ability to enjoy a vista or view. Visual pollution disturbs the visual areas of people by creating harmful changes in the natural environment.
Certain city and county leaders have determined visual pollution is not a significant consideration. Without having the benefit of living in the midst of a wind farm, how would they know? Unless you have been there, done that, it may be hard to understand the downside.
To the advantage of all Seneca County residents, we have friends in Madison County, Iowa. Madison County is similar to our area in the fact it is mostly rural. Madison has its own charm and was chosen as the idyllic location for the movie “Bridges of Madison County.”
The wind farm story they tell is this: When the first wind farm proposal came to them a few years ago, there was essentially no opposition. The turbines went up and are now considered as some of the tallest in the United States, at around 400-450 feet tall. About a year ago, the same developers returned and now want to build a second wind farm. However, this time around, after having the benefit of actually seeing and understanding what it’s like to live among the giant machines, the people of Madison County have hit the brakes and are saying no!
Madison County does not govern like Seneca County. They have five county supervisors. They also have the power to zone and issue project permits. The county supervisors can and do listen to their constituents. Unlike Seneca County, their issues can be decided on locally, without mandates from state officials that have no skin in the game (they live four counties away).
As of today, the Madison County board has tabled the permit request for 90 days to allow time to further research the downside of visual pollution. Informal interviews with various Madison County residents and elected officials reveal thousands oppose the further bastardization of their skyline and countryside. They understand the desire for alternative energy but are not prepared, unconditionally, to pay the price that comes with 500-foot-tall eyesores.
In Seneca County, we are on track to host 600-foot-tall turbines, giving us the dubious distinction as the newest home to the tallest wind farm machines in the nation. The Seneca County skyline will be visible to north from the Ohio Turnpike and Marion in the south. A 600-foot-tall tower is visible from 30 miles out in all directions. A 600-foot tower will dwarf the 70-foot-tall hardwood forests that stand next to them. The perspective of the landscape will change in ways that are hard to imagine.
We should question why are we even hearing conversations that tell us that if the turbine were to fall over, it won’t hit your house or that shadow flicker goes away when you pull the blinds. The people of Madison County do not have to use their imagination, they learned the hard way. We should all get involved. Many of our neighbors will be greatly impacted by this proposal, let’s support them. Let our remaining handful of poorly informed leaders know we are not yet ready for this “wonderful economic opportunity.”
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