In Your Corner: Whitley County Residents Want Time To Debate Wind Farm

By Ryan Elijah

November 12, 2010 Updated Nov 14, 2010 at 11:38 AM EDT

To St. Louis based Wind Capital Group, the farmland in Southern Whitley County symbolizes new energy opportunities. They have agreements in place with a number of landowners to construct 400-foot wind turbines on their property. The first phase of the plan would reportedly erect over 150 turbines, including 4 within 2500 feet of Jake Sherman's property.

"I'm not necessarily against this, I just want to make sure my family is safe, and that our property values don't go down", said Jake Sherman, Columbia City Resident.

We met with a dozen concerned residents, who didn't know about a public meeting last month. They just found out how the plans would impact their property.

They've organized a petition requesting a 6-month moratorium on plans, saying the community needs to be educated about possible problems including property values, noise and health concerns.

"They're doing a sales pitch and they're not going to tell you the negative. The side effects and health concerns are well documented We're not against the concept, all we want is more time to study it",
said Chad Shearer of Columbia City.

An official with Wind Capital Group told us much of the information on the internet is old. They say with new technology the turbines make very little noise and property values haven't been impacted in other areas. The company did confirm they've entered into agreements with a number of Whitley County landowners.

If approved, the wind farm would bring construction jobs and an estimated one million dollars per year to Whitley County. An owner with a unit on their property would also receive about 5-thousand dollars per year. We found members of a Wisconsin community who say they were misled by another company. Gerry Meyer's home has 4 turbines within 3300 feet and says the noise has changed his life.

A Chicago company called Invenergy owns the Wisconsin wind farm.
Meyer has kept a 2-year diary detailing sleepless nights, not to mention what's called a shadow flicker. The flicker is created at a certain time when the turbine's blades slice through the sunlight. He also took a cortisol test, which measures a stress hormone and the results came back a high level of 254, he was tested again after 21 days of the turbines being turned off and the result was a 35.

"it has completely taken away our quality of life and the life of others around us as well"

Meyer says he's embarrassed he trusted Wisconsin officials to do what was best for his community. Meyer also says a neighbors home took 13 months to sell recently and was sold for nearly $90,000 below its appraised value. He says he can hear a turbine from 3300 feet away, one reason he feels ordinances should require the setback from homes be much longer.

Like many counties, Whitley County doesn't have a wind ordinance and the Plan Commission has been crafting one for a number of months using 18 other community ordinances as a guide. The document is 18 pages and limits the turbines to 1200 feet from property lines and 50 decibels. Executive Director David Sewell says the commission is *not* approving the wind project, but putting regulations in place.
"They still will have to go through public hearings and rezoning.
They'll have an opportunity to present arguments", said Sewell.

If approved Wednesday night, the issue will move to the County Commissioners. Plan Commission member David Schilling is expected to abstain from the vote, since he reportedly has an agreement to place a wind turbine on his property.

Wind Capital says the process takes 3-4 years and the next step for them will be installing meteorological towers to test the wind in the area. It's expected they will receive federal tax dollars for the project.

Wind Capital says the industry setback standard is 1000 feet, that's what Wells County has approved, they hope to start construction of their wind farm in 2013.

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