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WIND ISSUE TABLED: Plan commission to take time to evaluate all input

March 22, 2012

Union workers in favor of wind farms coming to Whitley County hold up signs during Wednesday night/Thursday morning’s public hearing. — Post & Mail photo / James Thomlison

COLUMBIA CITY — Government officials in charge of drafting up the rule book for windmills in Whitley County decided early this morning to take time to sift through all the input given during Wednesday night’s meeting of the Whitley County Plan Commission.
Following the lengthy public hearing to discuss changes to a zoning ordinance, specifically related to wind turbines, the Whitley County Plan Commission decided in favor of tabling its vote on a recommendation. The commission ruled it had taken in too much information and needed time to process what it had heard.
Those both for and against wind turbines were out in full force.
Against the turbines, it was said Whitley County is too heavily populated for the proposed setbacks to not have an effect on all residents, even non-participants.
Icing events were also discussed, noting that ice from falling turbines could be dangerous to anyone within an approximate distance. It was said that fallen ice could lay on the road, endangering drivers.
Some said it’s a great challenge to the commission to keep the county’s interest in mind, and while understandable, wind capital is not something they should consider.
Looking at industry standards, it’s important to remember that standards are created by the industry, for the industry.
It was said that while the turbines may present a feel-good, environmentally safe situation, at the end of the day they are industrial turbines and bring with them all which applies to that.
Some said that living in Whitley County is great because of how peaceful and quiet it is, and bringing in turbines will destroy that, instantly dragging down property values.
Speakers said the job of the commission was to protect the county, and allowing a private wind corporation to come in and set its own regulations was an irresponsible decision to make.
Those in favor spoke about the economic impact wind turbines could have, referencing local businesses and schools.
There is an estimated $30 million dollars that could be put into the county should the commission decide in favor of recommending the ordinance change.
Residents said that putting a longer setback impacts those that may be in favor, stating that 1,500 feet from a non-participant’s residence may affect the distance requirements of participants.
President Brandon Forrester said that though the public portion of the discussion was closed for now, the issue needs continuance and agreed that all commission members should submit questions or proposed changes.
Rather than meet again for its regular monthly meeting, the commission decided to reconvene at a special meeting on April 4 to discuss proposed changes and possibly take a vote on its recommendation to the Whitley County Commissioners.
The meeting will take place at the Whitley County Government Center.

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