Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wind turbine committee meets, sets guidelines

By SARAH REED
of Ground Rules, Inc.
On behalf of Whitley County and Ground Rules Inc. we would like to thank everyone for their interest in the future of Whitley County, especially in regard to the wind farm issue.
 I’m writing to inform you that the Advisory Committee met April 26 to get the process rolling.  As you may remember the Whitley County Plan Commission established an Advisory Committee at their March 15 meeting. 
In summary, the committee’s job is to study and recommend a direction forward in regard to wind farms in Whitley County.  There are nine members on the committee; three non-supporters, three supporters, and three county representatives.
Committee membership as follows: pro wind farm: Doug Reiff, Walt Trier and Steve Sickafoose
anti wind farm: Stanley Crum,  Joan Null and Mark Mynhier; and Whitley County plan commission representatives: Brandon Forrester, Paula Reimers and George Schrumpf
Brad Johnson of Ground Rules, Inc. facilitated the meeting and David Sewell, Whitley County planning director, attended the March 26 meeting
The committee established meeting rules, discussed the process, determined guidelines for research and information to be considered, and had a general discussion about wind farms.  The committee also filled out a survey prepared by Ground Rules to determine which aspects of wind farms are of greatest concern, and which aspects need the most study.  By the way, all members were able to attend this meeting.  Below is a summary of outcomes:
Ground Rules’ Role:  Facilitate meeting, research committee decided topics, verify information presented, neutral party, and author of a wind farm ordinance if deemed by the committee to be necessary.
Upcoming Advisory Committee Meetings:  Generally we are trying to meet on the fourth Tuesday of each month for three more months.   We already know of a few conflicts, so the meetings will not fall exactly on those days. The upcoming meetings will be used as follows:
• May meeting:– The case against wind farms.
• June meeting:– The case for wind farms.
 • July meeting:– Deliberation and determination of a recommendation.
– Guidelines for Information:  The Advisory Committee is looking for and wanting to primarily consider valid and unbiased sources.  For instance, engineering organizations who have conducted independent studies, and not studies commissioned by interested parties.  To some degree it is anticipated that some biased information will be considered, just not to the same degree.
 – Research:  The committee has suggested a long list of names, agencies, organizations, and jurisdictions for Ground Rules to contact for information.
The Advisory Committee’s survey results are summarized below:
  • Moderate to high degree of concern about personal safety
  • High degree of concern about property value impact
  • High degree of concern about quality of life impact
  • Moderate degree of concern about aesthetic impact
  • Moderate degree of concern about environmental impact
  • High degree of concern about economic impact
Based on survey results, we will be spending a greater degree of time researching impacts to property values, quality of life, and economic impact than the other topics.  However, we will still spend time on each category.
Specific topics that are of high importance to understand include, and are not limited to the following:
 • Impact to residential property values
 • Net increase to county revenue (net impact to tax rate)
 • Net overall economic impact to the county
 • Minimum standards for placement of turbines
 • Noise impacts
 • Decommissioning standards
Again, these subtopics were ranked the highest in the surveys.
After each committee meeting discussions and outcomes will be summarized.  Anyone who wishes to stay in the advised about the committee’s progress, may contact Sarah Reed. Her email is sreed@groundrulesinc.com

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