LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Wind farms in Tippecanoe County took a blow Wednesday, as planners from across Greater Lafayette recommended an ordinance that would effectively ban commercial turbines.
The vote came after a half-dozen people derided the idea, saying that banning wind farms would make Tippecanoe County appear backward at a time when energy sustainability is vital.
The argument in return, including from nearly two dozen residents of southern Tippecanoe County – thought to be a prime spot for potential wind farms – was that turbines belonged in counties that weren’t growing the way this county is.
The ordinance would prohibit wind turbines taller 140 feet. That would leave the possibility for smaller turbines, similar to ones that power CityBus offices along Canal Road north of downtown Lafayette. But it would shut out commercial turbines, which can range from 300 feet to as much as 600 feet, for newer models.
The Area Plan Commission – a body made up of representatives from government bodies in Lafayette, West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and three towns in the county – voted 11-4 to recommend the ban. Final votes on the ordinance will come from Tippecanoe County commissioners on May 6, followed by votes by the other city councils and town boards.
Tippecanoe County, which is near large wind farms in Benton and White counties, already made it difficult for large turbines, with restrictions set in 2007 that demanded setbacks of 750 feet from neighboring properties without turbines and at least 1,200 feet from dwellings.
Julie Peretin, a Tippecanoe County resident, said neighbors grew concerned that those restrictions weren’t enough as they heard that wind energy companies were looking to sign leases for a possible wind farm in the southern part of the county.
Tom Murtaugh, a county commissioner and an APC member, said Wednesday that a company called Invenergy had been looking at land in the county, though he said county officials hadn’t heard from the company in recent months.
Tim Strueh, who lives near Linden, close to the Montgomery County line, said comparable Indiana counties – ones with similar total income and population growth – had already come up with bans or restrictions that were tougher than the ones in Tippecanoe County. Property owners argued that large wind farms would drive down property values of those land owners who didn’t sign leases.
They also argued that Tippecanoe County would be hamstringing space for industrial development – and the housing and other land needs that would follow – by clogging chunks of the county with wind turbines.
The proposed ban got pushback, though, Wednesday night.
“I don’t like the message this sends,” said Jennifer Teising, a West Lafayette resident and Wabash Township trustee. “If wind energy is not in Tippecanoe County’s plan, do you have a plan for sustainable energy?”
Iris O’Donnell Bellisario, a West Lafayette resident, said the ban would actually hamstring younger generations.
“We’re basically taking away our energy independence,” Bellisario said.
Linda Prokopy, a Purdue professor of natural resources, said Tippecanoe County should be a leader in sustainable energy, rather than a county prohibiting it. She also said the county, as it looks to grow, should be more concerned about compact planning rather than signaling that it’s prepared for more sprawl.
Roland Winger, a Tippecanoe County Council member and part of the APC, took issue with the notion that the county was turning its back on renewable energy. He said wind turbines, though, weren’t a good fit for Tippecanoe County.
“If I like chicken meat,” Winger said, “it doesn’t mean I want a chicken barn next to my home.”
Murtaugh is one of three Tippecanoe County commissioners who will vote on the proposed ban. He said he thought it was irresponsible to tie up tens of thousands of acres for the next two or three decades, as Greater Lafayette continues to draw industrial prospects.
“That’s why I plan to vote for this ordinance,” Murtaugh said.
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