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Wind farm sparks conversation in South Gibson

HAUBSTADT – Haubstadt zoning administrator Joe Gilpatrick hasn’t fielded many questions about a proposed wind farm, but he won’t be surprised if more come as the process continues.

E.ON Climate & Renewables is in the planning phase for a wind farm in Posey and southern Gibson County, meaning areas such as Fort Branch, Haubstadt and Owensville are in play. During a meeting with Gibson County Commissioners earlier this month, the company reported it is exploring areas of northwest and southwest of Princeton as well.

One citizen approached the Haubstadt town board about the project, and a former planning commission member reached out to Gilpatrick when he was approached by the company which had an interest in his property. Other than those instances, Gilpatrick said he hasn’t fielded many conversations from residents or from the company itself.

Gilpatrick said in most cases the people who aren’t in favor of the wind farm will be the ones the town might hear from. He said it’s less often that people come to voice their approval of a project.

Fort Branch clerk-treasurer Stacy Elpers told town council members recently that she had been contacted at the town hall about the project. She told board members it’s possible they could expect to be contacted from the community with questions on the issue.

Gilpatrick said he had been under the impression the area did not have enough sustainable wind speed for a wind farm.

E.ON representatives said at the March 5 meeting with commissioners that the company has installed one meteorological tower and expects to put up two more in the near future to generate more wind-speed data. That data would then help the company determine the location and type of wind turbines, along with necessary access roads.

Gibson County does not have zoning, but E.ON is still required to work with them on issues such as road use. It also will have to work with other groups, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Haubstadt and Princeton have zoning ordinances, unlike other communities in Gibson County. Gilpatrick said with Haubstadt’s two-mile zoning jurisdiction, any business interested in construction within that limit would have to contact him and go through the process of seeking a change of variance.

He said the one person who reached out to him regarding E.ON’s interest in their property was outside the two-mile limit.

“That’s the plus of zoning,” Gilpatrick said. “If there’s a problem, it can be looked at.”

County Commissioner Gerald Bledsoe and attorney Jim McDonald have a meeting planned with E.ON April 19 to discuss the setbacks from county road rights of way.

At this time the company’s lease terms require turbines at minimum a 1,250-feet setback from any residence, 550-feet from any road right-of-way, 550 feet from existing structures or power lines. It also states if an adjacent landowner does not agree to a lease, the turbine would be no less than 550 feet from their property line.