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May 10, 2013

Letter to the Editor: May 10, 2013

Let’s help officials deal with wind plan

As a taxpayer and concerned citizen of eastern Howard County, I have read some of the latest scholarly and peer-reviewed information available on industrial wind turbines. It’s not something I ever wanted to do or expected to do, and I do not pretend to be an expert even after reading much information. However, I do feel I have learned enough to conclude my family will not be adequately protected from property value loss or health and safety-related issues from audible/inaudible noise associated with industrial wind turbines with the current Howard County industrial wind turbine ordinance.

I also object to the Howard County setback, which allows a home inside the radius where industrial wind turbine technicians are told not to enter in case of a runaway turbine or fire.

The Howard County industrial wind zoning ordinance needs to reflect the latest independent and scholarly peer-reviewed information for setbacks and noise standards, but I don’t believe it does.

Furthermore, I cannot determine how the current ordinance requirements relative to wind energy, particularly the noise level and setback requirements, were set in the first place.

My questions: Are the setback and noise level requirements the result of wind turbine company input? How was the data derived for the requirements, regardless of input source? Who in Howard County did the analytical research that justifies the current requirements? What were the qualifications of the Howard County researcher(s)? Why aren’t the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Standards Organization (ISO) noise standards reflected in the noise portion of the industrial wind turbine zoning ordinance? On what grounds were the WHO and ISO standards ignored or disregarded? Were property value studies from the industrial wind turbine companies challenged? If not, why not?

Relative to property value, I can only imagine how the home values of those closest to industrial wind turbines in Howard County would be affected, and looking at the latest FAA charts of proposed turbine sites, I would be surrounded! Furthermore, property value loss according to the testimony of expert witness/appraiser Mike McCann during the Tipton BZA hearing is very disturbing.

Mr. McCann appraises properties near industrial wind turbines, and he stated a 25 to 40 percent home value loss occurs within two to three miles of industrial wind turbines! Why should any homeowner lose equity in their home so others in the county can profit? I’m a capitalist; I have no problem with anyone making money, but profits shouldn’t be made by some while others lose home equity as a direct result.

Fortunately, there is always legal recourse before or after the turbines are installed, but litigation should be a remote possibility if the zoning ordinance were adequate. Therefore, I ask our county officials to revisit the industrial wind turbine zoning ordinance before there is any permit application to assure they are truly protecting those who would be living near industrial wind turbines.

It is my understanding that even waiting a week may be too long if a wind turbine company makes application for a permit under the current zoning and it passes the planning commission’s “checklist”. I say this revisit needs to be done “yesterday” with the help of independent experts who do not work for the wind industry.

While I hope legal recourse will never be necessary by any Howard County residents, surprisingly, I’ve learned not only wind turbine companies, but my neighbors, as leaseholders, can be sued for any industrial wind turbine related issues. I don’t think anyone wants to sue their neighbors, least of all me, but if the zoning standards aren’t revised that could happen. I assume the county could be sued as well.

All of this can be avoided if the zoning setbacks and noise standards are changed to reflect the latest safety and WHO or ISO noise recommendations, and a property value guarantee formula is extended to homeowners from wind turbine companies.

I am not a lawyer and I’m sure that is apparent, but I do not see how an economic development agreement or roads contract with a wind turbine company could preclude changes to our zoning ordinances in light of the vast amount of scholarly information available that contradicts our wind energy zoning ordinance. Howard County shouldn’t stand on contracts as the reason for not revising its industrial wind turbine zoning ordinance. That would be the equivalent of choosing to ignore scholarly peer-reviewed data and the welfare of citizens, in my opinion. Ensuring the safety and welfare of citizens should always take precedent over contracts. If mistakes were made in developing the current industrial wind turbine zoning ordinance, they need to be corrected. Mistakes are correctable. Not correcting mistakes is unforgiveable.

Our Howard County officials need to look past the dollars they are hoping for to the realities they are ignoring if they haven’t adequately explored the data that is contrary to what profit-driven wind turbine companies may have presented to them or to leaseholders.

 I know elected jobs are not easy and no one said an elected job would be easy. However, I think it’s fair to expect due diligence that removes all doubt the current industrial wind turbine zoning standards will protect me, my family, and my property. If anyone can show me that’s been done, I’ll be satisfied. But while other counties are changing their wind energy zoning to be more stringent as new data becomes available on inadequate industrial wind turbine setbacks and noise requirements, I can only think due diligence was performed too long ago in Howard County to be meaningful today.

Complaints don’t solve anything without facts to back them. Let’s help the Howard County Commissioners and other county officials dealing with industrial wind turbine technology in Howard County develop an appropriate wind energy ordinance.

Kristie Mullett, Greentown

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