Whitley County Wind Farm: Too Close for Comfort

By Maureen Mespell
By Rachel Martin

February 16, 2012 Updated Feb 16, 2012 at 1:01 AM EDT

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – The Whitley County Plan Commission reviewed the fifth draft of a proposed zoning ordinance at a meeting Wednesday night that could allow wind farms.

Nothing's "official" yet, but some residents in Whitley County are worked-up about an ordinance being drawn up to possibly allow wind farms. Wednesday night, the Plan Commission made semi-final revisions. The public was not allowed to speak at the meeting, but the room was packed, and actions spoke louder than words.

The ordnance would serve as a regulation guide to wind farm companies. It does not act as an approval of wind farms, but some residents feel it might as well be. Companies like Apex and Wind Capital Group have expressed interest and made presentations to county residents. They are proposing building 93-113 wind turbines in a 56 sq. mi. radius in southern Whitley County.

Before leaving to cover this story, Indiana’s NewsCenter was warned of the intense feelings behind the proposed wind farms. Many people wore anti-wind farm buttons and held up picket signs saying, “No Wind Farms.” Others wore Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters (IKORCC) shirts to show their support of the economic impact and jobs a wind farm could bring to the area.

Hank Janda is a member of the group, Whitley County Concerned Citizens (WCCC). He says companies are proposing building a wind turbine along is property. He and his wife moved to Whitley County over a year ago and bought over 20 acres of land. Janda says he moved there because it was spacious and quiet, but now that could be compromised.

The latest draft of the ordnance reviewed Wednesday, has the setback distance at 1500 ft. Janda says it’s a fair compromise compared to the standard 1000 ft. most companies suggest. But, ultimately, he and other residents want the setback to be 1800 ft.

“With that great of a distance of a setback, it would actually kill the project due to the fact that it would limit the amount of wind turbines put in the area,” said Shane Harris, IKORCC Representative.

Janda’s other complaint is the idea of his tax dollars going toward something he doesn’t support.

“You're taking money out of the farmer's pocket, or so they claim, but it's my tax money going in there and I just object to that,” he said. “This country’s got enough of a problem. We don’t need to throw it down on these kind of energy sources.”

Harris says it could bring 250 long term and temporary jobs that would pay $13-14 million in construction worker salaries.

“In the state of Indiana, the wind generation industry has provided not only a lot of short term jobs, but long term sustainable jobs,” Harris said. “When other industries were suffering from economic declines, wind generation was there to help put food on the table for families.”

However, the ordnance is not final. Whitley County residents will have a chance to share their final input at a public hearing. The Plan Commission hopes to have a recommendation at that time.

The public hearing will be:

Wed. March 21, 2012
6:00 p.m.
4-H Community Center, 680 W. Squawbuck Rd. in Columbia City.

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