DeKalb County Residents Say They'll Ban Wind Farms

By Maureen Mespell
By Rachel Martin

December 21, 2011 Updated Dec 22, 2011 at 1:02 AM EDT

DEKALB COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Northeast Indiana seems to be growing in popularity for wind farms. So far, they've been proposed in Wells and Whitley counties, and it looks as if DeKalb County could be next—if residents allow.

A public meeting was held at Auburn City Hall Wednesday night to review a proposed wind energy ordinance. Based on public feedback, the DeKalb County Plan Commission will make a recommendation on the ordinance to the County Commissioners. Currently DeKalb County does not have an ordinance specific to wind energy development. Commissioners said a wind energy company has expressed interest in developing in DeKalb County, so it’s important to come up with some regulations. Commissioners have been working to create an ordinance since the summer, and Wednesday night the second draft was presented.

Nearly a hundred people attended the meeting, and no one raised their hand when asked who favored the current ordinance. About a dozen people spoke out, and many people brought binders of research and handouts. DeKalb County residents are against the ordinance and said it needs to be more restrictive. Their biggest issue is the regulation on “setback” distance, or the distance a wind turbine should be from a property.

The current proposed ordinance states a wind turbine must be between 400 and 500 ft. away from a property line, but residents want at least 1,500 ft. to a half mile. If a wind farm were to develop in their county, residents said they want to protect themselves from noise and flying debris from turbine blades.

“The ice throw alone is recorded to be over 1,765 ft.,” said Judy Walton. “So common sense tells you they need to be at least half a mile back from property lines.”

“These wind turbines are over 400 ft. tall, and if you have blade throw or ice throw, or a fire, or failure of any kind it could be detrimental to the people who live near by and even driving down the road,” Alice Swift said. “I think the setbacks with the population density in DeKalb County are way too close.”

The population density of DeKalb County is 116 people per square mile. Members of the DeKalb County Plan Commission said if they move the distance back any more, there will hardly be any room for companies to install a wind farm. Clinton Knauer, Zoning Administrator for the DeKalb County Plan Commission, said he remains neutral on the idea of wind energy. He said he’s not against tweaking the ordinance, but don't want it to be so restrictive that wind energy companies won't consider developing there.

“What I’m trying to do is find that ground where I’ve got a good set of regulations that protects the citizens of DeKalb County, yet doesn’t over-regulate to the extent of where I basically denied them access to the county whatsoever,” Knauer said.

Knauer said he feels the ordinance is already restrictive. He said he and commissioners have done extensive research and they have to meet many local, state, and federal requirements in the proposed ordinance.

“I think we've looked into it, I think we're middle-of-the-road. We're par for the course. We couldn't find any real reason why to make them greater, or any real reason why we should make them less restrictive,” Knauer said.

Despite the claims from the commission, residents feel they haven’t done enough research on the matter. Residents said if they have to, they will regulate the ordinance so that no wind farms could develop in DeKalb County at all. Commissioners said that is illegal, but Wabaunsee County in Kansas banned commercial wind farms in 2009.

“I just don't think DeKalb County is the place for the wind industry,” Swift said.

Knauer said the commission has looked at many documents and letters from both county officials and community members. They’ve made many changes to the last draft, but Knauer said he will make more changes if he has to.

“We’re going to have to pass an ordinance. We’re going to have to have a set of regulations for wind energy systems in DeKalb County,” Knauer said.

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