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Wind energy ordinance discussed

A proposed wind energy ordinance and temporary moratorium was once again discussed at Tuesday morning’s county supervisor meeting. The meeting room was crowded with citizens speaking both for and against wind turbines. Each person that spoke challenged supervisors to find a “fair way” to represent “all sides and all citizens” of the county.

After discussing the issue again at length, and hearing from citizens, supervisors each agreed to “make a list” of what they want in a specific wind energy ordinance. That list will then be taken to the county’s planning and zoning department head, who will then draft the ordinance, which would then be checked over by the county’s attorney. The ordinance draft would then go before the planning and zoning board. Once the ordinance reaches the zoning board, the public should have an opportunity for input before it is passed, according to officials.

Once again, Fitch suggested a moratorium on future wind energy projects in the county until the ordinance can be made “concrete.” The moratorium time frame she suggested was four months. Initially, Supervisor Aaron Price was not in favor of a moratorium. Once he clarified that the moratorium would not be retroactive and would in no way impact the Arbor Hills Wind Energy project that is currently tied up in the court system, he said he would possibly entertain the notion of a four-month moratorium.

Price said he was concerned with further litigation if the moratorium was enacted retroactive, and suggested the county confer with its legal counsel before even looking at the four-month moratorium that would stop wind mills being constructed until the specific wind ordinance was finalized.

“Everyone has to be represented,” Price said.

The ordinance and moratorium were first proposed by Supervisor Diane Fitch two weeks ago, and would have enacted stricter contingencies on wind energy companies such as greater set-backs, more disclosure to the public regarding proposed wind turbine locations and project time lines, lengthier application processes as well as less public impact with shadow, auditory issues, and environmental impacts. At that meeting and again on Tuesday, Fitch expressed concern that large corporations “had all the rights” leaving little for private land owners to do.

At that meeting Price said that he felt the proposed ordinance was “too restrictive and unfair” to those that were in favor of wind turbines in the county. He also said he felt it would place the county “in the middle” of personal contracts between private land owners and corporations.

Supervisors heard from two citizens who had requested to be placed on the supervisor agenda to speak specifically on wind energy, and then heard from about eight more people at the end of the meeting during the public comment portion. Attorney Tom Revely spoke to supervisors, offering a multitude of information and statistics regarding the affects of turbines on health and property values. Revely is the attorney for the Madison County Coalition for Scenic Preservation and is involved with the litigation against the county’s board of adjustment regarding the Arbor Hills Wind Turbine project.

Other individuals spoke of having signed the wind energy contracts and “regretting it”, as well as asking for “forgiveness of their neighbors for not being a good neighbor.” Some spoke of decreased land values and others said they “had turbines on their property and that was not true”.

Ultimately both sides asked supervisors to “protect the rights of tax payers”.

Others spoke on how it was their right to have turbines on their land and a “privilege” to help provide energy for America.”

Supervisor Price said that a new ordinance would not happen over night. Officials said they would work on a compromise that would be fair to the citizens and would begin making a wind energy ordinance priority list that they would then take to planning and zoning for a workshop.