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Board of Zoning Appeals orders that Renewable Energy Sources’ tower be removed

Scott Jansen of Renewable Energy Sources approached the Jasper County Board of Zoning Appeals on Monday, Oct. 22 to request a special exception renewal for an 80-meter-tall tower built to test wind speed in Barkley Township. Permits for the tower’s use notably expired in February of this year, and the company is looking into building similar towers as part of the “White Post Wind” wind farm project.

“We haven’t had any maintenance concerns with any of the equipment there,” Jansen said of the wind-testing tower. “It’s been performing very well.”

As soon as the Board was able to question Jansen about the tower, though, a member asked if he was aware that the original permit for its use had expired in February.

“We’d learned of that mid-summer,” he said. “Typically…a fill-in permit, it’s usually approved for a three-to-five-year term. We learned, mid-summer I think, that it had expired.”

Jansen alleged that the company only realized that the permit had actually expired during that mid-summer meeting with Building Inspector Mary Scheurich. During this meeting, the company was even intending to discuss the building of a second tower. However, Scheurich said that communications between her office and the company had discussed the expiration of the standing tower “long before mid-summer.”

When the meeting was opened up to comments from the public, one man questioned why the board would allow the renewal if the company apparently couldn’t keep track of the expiration date. He also mentioned how many members of the community are against the company’s plans to install a wind farm in the county, and that this doesn’t bode well for the quality of the upcoming project.

Jody Molenaar of Barkley Township notably stated that, according to correspondences she’d seen, the company was granted approval for 18 months, starting in August of 2016. Then, in February of this year, the company began coordinating with Scheurich’s office, during which time the expiration was mentioned.

“They did know, they just ignored it,” Molenaar said of the expiration. “…And they just pass, pass the buck, pass the buck. So what’s going to happen when all these other towers come in? ‘Oh, gee, we didn’t know that.’ We have correspondence that said yes, they did know that. So they were out of compliance for six months. So I believe it needs to be denied, and they need to start over.”

After public comments, the board approved a motion for the tower to be taken down by or before Jan. 1, 2019.