From Sulphur Springs east to Mount Summit and Mooreland as well as other small towns throughout the county, wheels are turning to ensure future wind turbines won’t be.
Tuesday night, patrons again spoke out against proposed wind turbines at the Sulphur Springs Town Board meeting. While a family emergency of one board member prevented a quorum and any official action, encouraging words were shared concerning efforts to prevent the towering titans of green energy from ever being built.
Sulphur Springs Town attorney Jeremy Bell said he had reviewed an ordinance passed in Sullivan County and proposed by the town board here establishing a four-mile buffer zone prohibiting construction of wind turbines. Wind turbine opponents have shared the ordinance with other Henry County small towns in hopes of limiting the areas across the county where they could be built.
Bell said he thought the ordinance would pass legal muster. He said state statutes enable towns to limit uses of property up to four miles past its boundaries if that use is deemed “dangerous or harmful to the town or its citizens.”
While the town would have no authority over zoning, Bell said it could prohibit the turbines using what he called its “police powers.”
“You’re not telling somebody what kind of use they can have on that property,” Bell said. “You’re just saying that you find this particular use would be harmful or dangerous to the town and the town’s citizens, so you are using your police powers to prevent that use.”
Bell said “reliable evidence” would be needed to show a harmful or dangerous use.
“In this town’s case, I think there have been previous discussions about possible issues with these being close to the gas pipeline,” Bell said. “So if the board finds reliable evidence … that a wind turbine going up would be harmful or dangerous to the town, then I think that would be a proper use of police powers.”
Previous discussions have also included concern about groundwater issues and the turbines in the Sulphur Springs area.
David Gratner again objected to the setbacks of wind turbines as now stated in the countywide ordinance. He said the setbacks are measured from the hub of the turbine, not the blade.
“So technically, you take away 250 to 275 feet from that and that’s the actual setback,” Gratner said. “The blade lengths were not included in the setbacks.”
As discussion of wind turbines ensued in Sulphur Springs, area resident Judy Walker said town boards in Mount Summit and Springport were also discussing the same ordinance. She added town boards in Lewisville, Straughn, Kennard and Greensboro had started similar procedures with the same ordinance.
Sulphur Springs Town Board President William Ditlinger said an official from Mooreland came to his house and picked up a copy of the ordinance Monday.
Walker said if the small towns united, they could limit the future impact of wind turbines.
“If they (the wind companies) sue each town, we would ask that the town ordinances be combined into one because each is based on the very same law that home rule allows us to do,” Walker said.
Adding fire to the wind discussion was a claim by one resident concerning Shenandoah School Corp.’s wind turbine.
“For what it’s worth, Shenandoah’s turbine is broken right now,” Jim McShirley said. “A blade that comes off a turbine like this, in my opinion, is a potential menace to the school. Those blades could land in the parking lot. They could land on the football field. At a minimum, they could drop right down on top of school buses.”
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