Morgan County commissioners heard feedback from community members during Monday’s meeting on a proposed ordinance to allow wind turbines in the county, with some speaking in favor of the project, while others opposed it or requested additional protections.
The board placed the proposed wind ordinance up for public review on May 6 for a 30-day public comment period and will be discussing the ordinance and public feedback next month before voting on the new policy at a later meeting.
Morgan County resident Jay Meado said he is one of the farmers that have been approached to be a leaseholder.
“Farming is hard – it’s not easy,” Meado said. “This brings in money that can make a lot of difference to a farmer. That extra money will be beneficial to the farmer and the community.”
Meado argued that it is his right as a landowner to use his property as he sees fit. Extra money from the use of his land would give him some room to purchase new equipment for his farm operations or to cover any other costs.
The ordinance was drafted after residents raised concerns about the current ordinance, which was written in 2009 and had a setback of 1,000 feet from the foundation of a home.
Two companies, Apex Clean Energy and E.ON, have been working with county landowners to develop potential sites for between 80 and 120 wind turbines in the eastern portion of the county.
Victoria Ringer said she used to work in Springfield, finding ways to bring economic development to the community. The proposed projects would generate extra tax revenue for municipalities and schools.
“They will invest in the community for 30 years,” Ringer said. “It’s hard to find something like that.”
Others opposed the project, stating there were too many uncertainties when it comes to the generation of wind energy.
“If it has to come in, I’d like to see good ordinances that will protect us all,” Betty Newman said. “Looking at this, I’m not happy with it … I think it can be improved if we go that way.”
Newman said the ordinance needs to do a better job of addressing the impact on both the health and property of those near the wind farms and fixing some inconsistent definitions throughout the document.
Stephanie Bergschneider said she believes any wind projects should be postponed until more research has been completed about wind energy.
“I don’t think it’s the time to have one in Morgan County,” Bergschneider said. “Perhaps in the future, when more studies are done and some of these issues mitigated, we can bring one to the community.”
With that being said, Bergschneider said if a farm is going to come to the community, the ordinance has to do a better job of protecting non-participating landowners, starting with moving setbacks to the property line instead of the foundation of a home.
Chairman Brad Zeller said the board and Dusty Douglas, the director of the Regional Planning Commission, have been reviewing comments that have been submitted and will make adjustments accordingly.
“We’ve received numerous emails about the ordinance and we understand the complicity and that some things need to be improved,” Zeller said. “The main concern is the setbacks. The rest is with the internal language. … Mr. Douglas will continue to work on it.”
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