By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor
TIPTON – On Wednesday evening, Proponents and opponents of the proposed Prairie Breeze Wind Farm in northwestern Tipton County filled the auditorium of the Tipton High School.
The Tipton Board of Zoning Appeals was considering a conditional use permit requested by juwi Wind to invest $300 million to construct a 150-megawatt wind farm in Prairie and Liberty townships. The project is expected to involve 94 wind turbines.
As of Kokomo Tribune press time, the hearing was continuing. In the event that no vote is taken Wednesday, the BZA will meet tonight at 5 p.m. at the high school.
To accommodate the large crowd a video screen and audio was placed in the lobby of the auditorium.
Members of the Tipton County Citizens for Responsible Development, which is opposed to the wind farm, wore white shirts with many wearing flashing red lights. The red lights are representative of the lights placed on the top of wind turbines.
BZA members will make a decision on the requested conditional use permit based on four criteria spelled out in the Tipton County zoning ordinance.
Those criteria include: Does Prairie Breeze conform to the zoning ordinance?; Will the project support the health, safety and welfare of county residents?; Will the use and value of adjacent property be supported by the project?; and: Does the project promote the objections of the county’s comprehensive plan?
At the center of the battle between opponents and proponents of the Prairie Breeze project is the potential impact on property values in the area.
Mark Thayer, speaking for juwi Wind, said as a professor at San Diego State University he completed a study in 2009 of 24 wind farm operations in ten states.
He said the study of 7,459 single family homes found no impact on the sales price, which brought laughter from the opponents in attendance.
Thayer said studies have found living next to a toxic waste dump would lower property values by six to ten percent.
“If someone tells you being next to a wind turbine lower property values by 40 percent, you should question that,” he said.
Thayer said his study looked at the impact of proximity to wind turbines and on the scenic view.
“There is no statistical evidence that property values are impacted by turbine view,” he said. “In Tipton County there should not be a significant reduction in the sale price of property based on proximity to a wind turbine.”
Thayer said since his study in 2009 there have been several more studies that have all shown no impact on property values as a result of a wind farm.
He said two studies found an impact on property values when a project was first announced, but not after the wind farm was constructed.
Appraiser Mike McCann, representing the CRD, said Tipton County’s setbacks for the placement if a wind turbine from an adjacent property is inadequate to protect property values
He said the county ordinance requires a 1,000 foot setback and that juwi Wind is using a 1,250 foot setback.
“We should be talking about miles to avoid any adverse impact,” McCann said.
A wind farm will change the character of the area from residential and rural to industrial and decreases the desirability of selling a residential property.
McCann said in Tipton County the impact will range from a decrease in value from 25 to 80 percent depending on how close the property is located to a wind turbine.
A study McCann did in Lee County, Ill. showed a decrease in property values of 25 percent within two miles of a wind farm.
He said on average it takes a year longer to sell a property near a wind turbine and the price will be at least 20 percent lower.
McCann said it is not known how many homes in an area will be foreclosed on because property owners can’t sell at a reasonable price and are losing value.
He asked: “How many people will walk away from a property?”