Wind energy zoning breezes into county

     With at least one business interested in Whitley County for development of a wind energy system and a business in the commercial side of the industry located in Whitley County, local officials are trudging through a 17-page ordinance on regulation of wind farms.

     “This topic has been on our agenda for the last several months,” Dave Sewell, executive director of the Columbia City-Whitley County Planning and Building Department, said as the county’s plan commission began its review of a proposed local ordinance.

     Though far from finished with the task, the commission may have its review completed by October , after which would be a public hearing on the ordinance and a recommendation to the county commissioners in December for final approval.

     Several county officials recently toured wind farms in White and Benton counties where they found the turbines were “surprisingly” quiet.

     White County is in its second phase of four for wind farm development. Its ordinance and several others in the state are being used as templates for Whitley County’s ordinance.

     Included in the ordinance is a requirement that any development request be made to the planning and building department, with details on generating capacity, the number of towers planned, height of the towers and rotator size.

     The most noise expected to be generated by the towers, according to the manufacturer’s specifications, must also be included.

     A plan to repair any damaged roads and yards or other property from the work would also be required. The county would likely create a wind energy conversion zoning overlay on any land used, which would be an addition to current zoning, not a change.

     Due to the size of most wind farms, Sewell said adjacent landowners would likely not be notified of a proposed project, as the department currently does for other petitions. He feels word of mouth and news coverage would be enough by the time a development is proposed that no adjacent landowner would be unaware of the plans.

     Commission member and county council chair Kim Wheeler said he feels it’s important that adjacent landowners are somehow aware of the plans.

     “If it was coming in next to me, I’d want to know,” he said.

     How the towers would be decommissioned if they were taken out of use must also be included in any business proposal. Which regulations in the ordinance would be applied to a project would depend on whether it was for commercial, non-commercial or private use.