LAFAYETTE – Wind farming developers in Tippecanoe County might find infertile ground here.
Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh, who serves on the Area Plan Commission ordinance committee, asked that a draft of a law be submitted in the near future that would ban large wind farms in the county.
Area Plan Commission Director Sally Fahey said the entire committee wanted the proposed ordinance drafted.
A discussion hashing out the setback distances for wind turbines led to the proposed ban, Fahey said.
“When we wrote our (wind farm) ordinance in 2012, wind turbines were between 300- and 400-feet range,” Fahey said. “But now they’re in the 600-feet range.”
The setback distances established in 2012 are inadequate for turbines that tall and would pose an intrusion into nonparticipating land owners, she said.
During its Feb. 6 meeting, the committee asked the Area Plan Commission staff to draft a proposed ordinance that bans wind farms, Fahey and Murtaugh said.
“It would not involve any changes to any small wind systems or micro wind systems,” Fahey said.
For example, the proposed ordinance would not affect a farmer who puts up a wind turbine to generate his own electricity, Fahey said. If approved, the ordinance also would not affect the micro systems, which tend to be rotating tubes erected on rooftops, she said.
However, large wind farms and their developers, such as the ones in Benton and White counties, would be barred from Tippecanoe County.
Fahey said she’s heard of one wind farm developer that is exploring the possibility of putting up turbines in southwestern Tippecanoe County and northern Montgomery County.
The Journal & Courier emailed a spokeswoman for that particular company asking for confirmation about its plans here and asking for comment about the proposed ban. The spokeswoman has not responded to the email.
“Wind farms are appropriate in a county more more rural than Tippecanoe County and are more dependent upon them for economic development,” Fahey said.
Tippecanoe County is booming with economic development, so it doesn’t need the boost from the wind farm industry.
The committee also consider the population density here when discussing whether to being an ordinance to ban wind farms.
Benton County, for example, has 21 people per square mile, and White has 48 people per square mile. Contrast that to Tippecanoe County, which has 354 people per square mile, Fahey said.
Other counties – Hamilton, Allen, Delaware, Howard, Grant and Kosciusko, to name a few – have either banned wind farms, set restrictive ordinances that make farms impractical or put a moratorium on the turbines’ until more studies are done, Fahey said.
The proposed ban comes before the ordinance committee at its March 6 meeting, Fahey said. If approved, it will go before the Area Plan Commission’s April 17 meeting.
If it clears that, the zoning ordinance will be sent to the two cities, as well as Dayton, Battle Ground, Clarks Hill and the Tippecanoe County commissioners, Fahey said.
The wind farm ban would go into effect in each of the six areas if and when the ordinance is adopted, Fahey said. But as part of a unified zoning code, it would be ideal if all of the governing entities adopt it, she said.