By Ken de la Bastide
A request from local residents to impose a moratorium on any wind farm developments until changes are made in the county’s wind ordinance was rejected by Tipton County Commissioners Monday.
The Tipton County Citizens for Responsible Development (CRD) asked the commissioners to impose a moratorium until changes are approved in the wind ordinance to protect the health, safety and property values of local residents.
The commissioners declined to make a motion to implement the moratorium and directed the CRD to appear before the Tipton County Plan Commission with their request.
The wind ordinance was amended in 2010 with the assistance of pro-wind groups, the leaseholders and the wind companies, said Jeff Hoover, who represented the CRD. He said the average citizen did not provide any input into the changes.
The Tipton County Board of Zoning Appeals on March 20 approved a conditional use permit requested by juwi Wind for the Prairie Breeze Wind Farm in Liberty and Prairie townships. The permit had added conditions that included a setback of 1,500 feet from the property line of adjacent properties and submission of a plan to protect property values of non-participating property owners in the area.
“This moratorium should remain in place until the new comprehensive plan is completed and the ordinance is changed to protect all Tipton County citizens from the health, safety and property value loss of Wind Energy Conservation Systems,” Hoover said.
The group first asked Mike Cline, president of the Board of Commissioners, to recuse himself from participating in any discussion or voting on the moratorium request.
County Attorney John Brooke said there was no reason for Cline to recuse himself.
Though members asked for a vote, no motion was made.
Commissioner Joe VanBibber expressed sympathy for the group and said he has been critical of the process used in Tipton County. He said the placement of wind farms should be a community decision, not the BZA’s
“The process was bad,” he said. “The decision was made by the wrong body. This is a land use issue.”
Hoover argued the BZA sets policy for Tipton County. “You’re choosing to ignore your citizens. I cannot accept that,” Hoover said.
Hoover said the CRD would be at the next Plan Commission meeting, in force, to request the moratorium and put a new county comprehensive plan in place.
CRD member Jim Leffler said all the group is seeking is a “time out” to understand the action taken by the BZA in terms of the Prairie Breeze request.
“It’s going to come back to the commissioners,” he said.
VanBibber said that is the process, and he anticipates it coming back to the commissioners in the future.
Jim Ashley, a member of the Plan Commission, said officials know of other developers working on wind farms in Tipton County.
He asked the commissioners for a 30-day moratorium.
“The concern is E.ON will come forward with an application on phase two and three of the Wildcat Wind Farm,” Ashley said.
The Plan Commission was supposed to consider an overlay zone for the future placement of wind farms in the county, but hasn’t met since January, Ashley said.
“We want to put a brake on them,” he said of wind farms. “Complete the process as it should be, with input from the Plan Commission, commissioners and residents.”
Cline said the Plan Commission could have met in February and March and that the members should be pushing for a meeting.
“All decisions are made right here,” Hoover said. “Don’t put it off on another board.”