A crowd of 40-50 residents came out to hear the Adam's County Plan Commission's decisions regarding the wind ordinance changes Thursday night.
The commission members went through each change suggested by the steering committee (which had been formed specifically for this reason), the concerned citizens group, and Doug Hartman, a private citizen. Each change was thoroughly discussed; some were amended, some disregarded, most adopted. Paul Norr said, "We want to protect the landowner [where a WECS tower is] as much as possible."
The recommendations now go to the county commissioners, who must give final approval.
The main changes made by the commission were:
• An applicant who wishes to put a Wind Energy Conversion System (WECS) in Adams County must perform a study on how such a project would affect the surrounding area. This study will then be analyzed by an environmental professional chosen by the county and paid for by the applicant. The professional will then give a recommendation to the Board of Zoning Appeals, who will make a decision after that.
• A $5,000 fee must be paid annually to the county for each WECS tower, whether or not it is operational. This will deter a company from abandoning a tower without properly taking it it down.
• The owner/operator of a WECS tower will incur all charges for measuring the sound pressure produced by the tower, which is not to exceed 45 decibels to adjacent non-participant property lines.
• WECS towers will not create shadow flicker or blade reflection on a non-participating residence, unless it is for 30 minutes a day, or less than 45 hours per year.
• The WECS tower owner must maintain the tower, and all repairs must be made within 45 days of notice.
• WECS towers must be at least 600 feet from a residence, church, or school; it may get closer to the residence with a special variance and the owner's permission, but it may not be closer to a school or church.
• Landowners within a quarter mile of the proposed tower must all give written permission for it to be there.
• The WECS tower's owner is responsible for repairing damages done to drainage and/or roads caused by the tower.
• The WECS tower's owner must file an annual certificate of insurance with the county auditor for $5 million per claim of bodily injury and $2 million per claim to property damage.
• If a WECS tower is abandoned, the landowner then has the right to salvage, use, or tear down the tower as she/he sees fit.
Attorney Adam Miller began the evening's discussion by reviewing the history of the ordinance. He went on to clarify that while the meeting had been opened to public attendance, the public's time to speak on the ordinance was over.
Miller stated that the ordinance issue had "pitted friend against friend and neighbor against neighbor.... I'm hoping that when we're done here tonight, we're all still part of the same community." Miller also explained that since Indiana does not have a statewide wind ordinance, each county has had to come up with its own rules regarding wind turbines.
Miller also reminded the audience of the history of this wind ordinance. It was recommended to and passed by the commissioners in 2010, after several public meetings. In 2012, the county commissioners asked the plan commission to review the wind turbine ordinance and decide whether changes should be made, and what those changes should be.
The commission in turn formed a steering committee of board members, landowners, business owners, and concerned citizens for this task, which met nine times between April and September of 2012. The committee reviewed every aspect of Adams County's ordinance, as well as the ordinances of other counties.
It also studied the impact of wind turbines. Based on its studies, the committee recommended changes to the plan commission. In January 2013, Chuck Bishhof of the concerned citizens' group recommended several changes from the group, which were reviewed, and many accepted, Thursday night.
Gene Bienz of the concerned citizens group said that he had mixed feelings about the results of the meeting. He plans to review the ordinance as it now stands and collect his thoughts. "Some things went well, but there are still shortcomings," Bienz said.
Those who wish to obtain a copy of the ordinance for their own review should contact the Plan Commission at (260) 734-5305.