By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor
TIPTON — After months of discussion and debate, the Tipton County Board of Zoning Appeals will decide whether to issue a conditional use permit for the proposed Prairie Breeze Wind Farm.
Developer juwi Wind is proposing a $300 million development to place 94 wind turbines in Prairie and Liberty townships in northwestern Tipton County.
The county is already home to 64 wind turbines placed by E-on Climate & Renewables as part of phase one of the Wildcat Wind Farm east of Windfall. Opponents note there are plans for five wind farms in the county in the future.
The Tipton County Citizens for Responsible Development (CRD), formed to stop the development of the wind farm, cites concerns about the impact on property values, health and noise.
Officials with juwi Wind contend studies have shown no significant impact on property values or on health in the area of wind farms located in the U.S.
The BZA members will make a decision based on four criteria spelled out in the Tipton County zoning ordinance.
Those four 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? Does the project promote the objectives of the comprehensive plan?
Three alternate members of the BZA were appointed when regular members recused themselves because of a conflict of interest involving leases with the development companies.
Alternates Neal Planalp, Carroll Cohee and Robert Powell will join regular BZA members Jerry Acres and Frank Zickmund in hearing the request for the conditional use permit.
The original public hearing, which was set for Feb. 20, was delayed for one month while the alternate members of the board were selected.
Prior to that meeting, juwi Wind voluntarily moved the location of proposed wind turbines near Sharpsville and the Prairie Acres subdivision beyond the 1,250-foot setback required by the county. The nearest turbine to Sharpsville will be 4,761 feet from the town limits and 3,720 feet from Prairie Acres.
Michael Rucker, CEO of juwi Wind, said if the permit is approved, the first priority of construction will be to complete final engineering and site plans and to construct the site roads to the turbine locations.
He said limited construction work would begin this year, and the project would be complete in fall of 2014.
Rucker said a site for the staging area during construction has not been determined, and the operating facility location has not been finalized.
He would not discuss possible contracts for the sale of the electricity produced by the 150-megawatt facility.
An issue raised during the naming of alternates was a possible conflict of interest by Commissioner Mike Cline, whose mother has leased land to juwi Wind.
Cline recused himself from voting on selection of Powell and Planalp as alternates, but previously voted on several issues concerning the wind farm.
The Indiana State Police was asked to investigate the allegations against Cline, and a special prosecutor has been named.
“We feel comfortable that issue has been aired and discussed,” Rucker said. “A lot of people have looked at it. We don’t believe there is a conflict of interest. We don’t have a contract with him.”
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