01/25/13 It was standing room only at Thursday night’s Marshall County Plan Commission meeting as members were presented with a proposed amendment to the County’s Wind Energy Conversion System in the zoning ordinance.
County Plan Director Ralph Booker read the current ordinance and then the proposed changes so everyone at the meeting knew what was being considered. One of the biggest changes is setbacks. The current ordinance calls for a 1,000 feet from the boundary of any L-1 or T-1 zoning district and the proposal is to increase it to 2,640 feet or one half mile. It also wants the half mile set back from the property line of any property with or without a wind tower and the 2,640 feet from any public park. Their proposal recommends a 1½ mile setback from any nature preserve or wetland over a half acre, and from any school, church, ball field or municipal boundary. The proposal also seeks a 3 mile set pack from any public or private, natural or man-made lake over an acre or from any river.
Stephan Snyder from Snyder Morgan Attorneys at Law out of Syracuse was there representing Marshall County Citizens. He spoke of our country’s oil dependency and the need for additional sources of energy, and how the wind turbines are subsidized by the government. Snyder said the proposed amendment was put together with significant scientific study.
In discussing the increased setbacks, Snyder said, “There are three needs for the increased setbacks; health protection, noise and land values.” Other reasons for changes included wildlife and the eagles at Lake Maxinkuckee, esthetics and taxes.
During the Public Hearing 10 people spoke in favor of the ordinance amendment. Thor Hebner of Plymouth discussed the effects on Doppler radar from the turbines. Bill Wallace, also from Plymouth asked if there were studies of the affects to animals that are exposed to the sounds from the units. He also wanted to know if the wiring to distribute the energy would be underground or above ground.
Cathy Clark from the Culver Environmental Council discussed their concerns with the effects to the lake and watershed which encompasses 8,000 acres. She also talked about the 6 eagles that have taken up residency at the lake and a recent study that showed 6 species of birds that are only find at Lake Max and not in the rest of Marshall County.
Hal Sullivan told the Plan Commission he went to DeKalb, IL where NextEra had a wind farm. He said there were empty homes, the land around the turbines was messy and lots of land was taken out of use. A visit to Chalmers, IN where another company built a wind farm…folks were happy and the lots were mowed and well taken care of. He was warning about NextEra.
After about 50 minutes of public discussion the public hearing was closed. Members of the Plan Commission discussed the amendment…. Booker said they could approve it, deny it, approve part of it, table it or send it on to the county commissioner with no recommendation.
Board member Larry Fisher said he wanted to take it item by item because there were parts he agreed with but some proposals he felt the need discussion.
There was a bit more discussion and then the motion was made to table any action for further investigation with the proposed amendment to be considered again at the February 28th meeting.