The Jasper County Board of Commissioners spent a significant portion of their Monday, Dec. 3 meeting in a hearing, which took place in the Circuit Courtroom of the Jasper County Courthouse. The subject of the hearing was whether or not the commissioners would approve an amendment to the county’s ordinance on wind power, curbing the likelihood of proposed wind farm projects being able to move forward. That hearing’s venue, different from the commissioners’ usual meeting room, was meant to accommodate the sizable number of people who wished to be present for and partake in the wind-related discussions.
The proposed amendment was ironed out by a technical committee of members from the Jasper County Planning Commission. The committee’s main representative during Monday’s hearing was Vince Urbano.
Although some wind power companies have expressed interest in placing farms of wind turbines on county property, the commissioners noted that Monday’s hearing was not about granting the wishes of any one company.
“What we’re talking about today is an amendment to our ordinance,” said Board President Kendell Culp. “It is not to allow or disallow any specific wind company to be able to have a development in this county. That’s not what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about the rules that will allow, under what circumstances, for wind development to come into the county sometime in the future.”
Culp began the hearing by noting that the amendment’s fate would not be decided on that day, since a considerable amount of time was warranted to weigh the pros and cons of the amendment.
“We will not take a vote today,” Culp said. “…The planning commission has discussed and haggled and debated for several months…We will have to continue this hearing to a future meeting.”
Monday’s hearing was divided into three portions. In the first portion, the committee presented its findings to the commissioners. In the second portion, the commissioners were able to ask questions about the findings. The third portion allowed for comments or questions from the public.
“We’ve juggled this thing back and forth for several months now, as a lot of people in this room and a lot of you guys know,” Urbano said. “And we felt like the original ordinance that was put in front of us was a ban. I mean, it was a downright ban. So we felt like it was really necessary to put together a technical committee…and put a plan together to fix Jasper County. And that’s exactly what we did.”
Urbano went on to say that the committee had put “a strong ordinance in place to protect the people of Jasper County, but…also put waivers in place that allow the landowners to pick and choose what they want to do with their land.”
The committee’s presentation, and the commissioner’s questions for them, all lasted for approximately 45 minutes. Then, the floor was opened for public comments, which lasted for approximately another 45 minutes.
The Jasper County Commissioners plan to continue the hearing on the morning of Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. Culp also noted that all three commissioners will be present when the board decides to vote on the amendment, which will likely be at that date in January. Culp also noted that the commissioners cannot make a sudden change to anything in the amendment without sending it right back to the planning committee for another recommendation.
“The only way it ends is if we approve or deny [exactly] what they send to us,” Culp said of the planning commission.
The RES project
Renewable Energy Systems (RES) is a company notably planning to construct a wind farm in Jasper County, near the area of Francesville, in the near future. The project has been dubbed the “White Post Wind Project” by the company.
Specifically, the project will involve up to 116 wind turbines (max. 660 ft. tall). It is expected to generate approximately 400 megawatts of power and will need associated access roads, underground collection lines, a collector substation, an operations building and meteorological towers for measuring wind speed and other climatic conditions.
The ordinance amendment affecting turbine use in the county was brought about by changes proposed by a group of local individuals including Jasper County Plan Commission President Gerrett Dobson, Scott Green and Steve Molenaar. The group’s goal was to provide what it has referred to as “adequate protection to those who choose not to participate in the White Post Wind Project.”
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