PRINCETON — Gibson County Advisory Plan Commission members will continue their review and modifications of a draft version of a proposed land-use planning ordinance during work sessions from 1-4 p.m. Feb. 18 and Feb. 28 at the North Annex council chambers on North Hart Street in Princeton.
The work sessions follow Wednesday night’s two-hour forum at the Toyota events center, where more than 30 people voiced their opinions about zoning and wind turbines and other related issues.
APC Chairman Steve Obert told Wednesday’s crowd that the proposed ordinance is still in rough draft form, and it will be shared publicly as updates are made. “This why it’s so important for us to continue to have input from the community. We need to share with us, we need you to be our partners,” he told citizens.
The APC set ground rules for Wednesday’s public hearing, requiring those who spoke to state their name and county of residents, to direct their comments to the commission and not single out other individuals, to keep comments respectful, refrain from cheering or shouting and limit comments to three minutes each.
Thirty-four citizens, most of whom live in the county, weighed in on zoning, proposed wind turbines, property rights and other issues.
After everyone spoke, Obert thanked them for their input. “We appreciate the courtesy shown ... your comments are so meaningful to us.
“We’re committed to doing our best, but we realize our best may not be good enough for some people,” he admitted. “... but we will make our best efforts.”
Obert said he believes there’s still a lot of misunderstanding about what’s in the proposed ordinance, and there are lingering concerns about what will happen in the future. He challenged county commissioners and the county council to give citizens something that will allay those fears.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of our county and how we’ve conducted ourselves,” he told the audience as he concluded the meeting.
Public commentLarry Michel, who lives east of Fort Branch, told the APC he hates “to see attorneys making $10 a minute to stand here and listen to us,” and that he believes people who are concerned about proposed wind turbine farms “are being used as a catalyst to bring zoning back.” Michel said he believes the language in the proposed ordinance is too restrictive.
David Utley of Haubstadt, a physician who discussed health risks and wind turbines with the APC in an earlier workshop, repeated his concerns about making sure safeguards regarding sound, shadow flicker and turbine height restrictions are in any land-use ordinance.
Mark Adler, who lives in the Haubstadt area, said he supports zoning as a way to protect residents. “We need zoning so we can all live safely and happily ever after,” he told the APC
Dennis Utley of Gibson County told the APC he’s concerned that wind turbines will have a negative impact on his health through loss of sleep.
Paul Smith, a Gibson County resident, told the commission he’s surprised, after the last round of studying zoning, that the APC has to “go through this again.”
Smith said he believes zoning ordinances will make restrictions that stop creativeness and will restrict liberty. “If rural citizens wanted these restrictions, they would have moved to town where restrictions are already set up.”
Arvin Schurmeier of Gibson County said he’s concerned about how zoning will affect agriculture and the freedom to rebuild on property.
John Grigsby of Owensville said he’s in favor of wind farms and believes they will be an economic windfall for the county.
Larry West, Gibson County, told the APC about some of the difficulties he encountered while living in Hendricks County, being required to pay fees for permits to build a garage and take down two trees on his property.
Sarah Adler Hasenour of Gibson County told the APC the community should value people over property. Expressing her support for the right restrictions for wind turbines, she told the APC, “Let’s protect each other, let’s protect the most vulnerable among us ...”
Erin Maurer of rural Haubstadt asked the APC to require RWE Renewables to provide an unredacted study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and asked the county to require a legally binding written curtailment agreement for turbines to be shut down when the National Weather Service deems it necessary.
Susan Straub of Gibson County said the proposed wind turbine farm offers clean energy and told the APC it’s difficult to fathom any business being required to make absolute safety and guaranteed land values.
Straub said most of the people leasing property to RWE live in the community. She said if zoning becomes a reality, it should not discriminate and impose anything beyond industry standards.
RWD Renewables Development Manager Karsen Rumpf said the company is not against zoning but asked the APC not to institute property valuation guarantees upon the company and to reduce setbacks from 2.5 times the height of a turbine to what he described as the industry standard 1.1 times height of the turbine setback. He also told the APC that RWE is reviewing the data on the number of days of severe storm warnings in Gibson County as a part of any potential curtailment agreement.
Richard Straub of Haubstadt said he thinks a small group of landowners are pushing commissioners and APC into reviving zoning. “Don’t get caught up in the witch hunt ...” he warned. “Vote yes for renewable energy with, or without zoning.”
RWE Development Manager Oliver Ellen detailed the economic impact of a wind farm in Gibson County, reporting property tax revenue and job creation data that he presented to the APC in a prior work session.
He asked the APC to allow NOAA to provide recommendations based on a National Telecommunications and Information Administration analysis.
Tim Goad of Gibson County told the APC he’s against zoning “in any way, shape or form.”
Randy Hall of Gibson County said he’s worked on wind turbines and considers the business no different than mines.
Les Kiesel of Gibson County asked the APC to ensure safe setbacks for any wind turbines, noting that “these turbines, they are the size of the St. Louis Arch,” and without proper setbacks, a turbine can be a form of trespass zoning on his property. “We deserve to be 100% safe,” he told the board. “If the project doesn’t fit safely, then it shouldn’t be here.”
Ken Montgomery of Francisco said he believes zoning is just an example of “government getting its hand into whatever it can get into,” telling the APC he’s “totally against zoning.”
Kent Maurer of Gibson County had questions about some of the lease agreements with RWE and told the APC, “what we do affects others,” urging some type of zoning protection.
Kent Scheller told the APC the proposed zoning ordinance doesn’t provide enough setback distance for turbines, needs more stringent shadow flicker regulations and sound restrictions.
“You have to have zoning to protect your liberty,” Mark Fehrenbacher of Fort Branch told the APC.
Rita Stone told the APC she wants to assure the Doppler radar tower is protected, remembering her property was in the direct path of a Feb. 28, 2017, tornado, but with Doppler radar, she had early enough warning to seek shelter.
Gary Seibert of Gibson County said he moved from Vanderburgh County to “get away from zoning” and told the APC he’s never seen agriculture protected by zoning. He said urban sprawl is the biggest threat to agriculture.
Seibert said agriculture is truly a manufacturing business. “We take a raw product and turn it into a finished product.” He said agriculture accounts for $854 million in economic impact in the county and much higher impact (estimated $1.2 billion in ag-related spending).
Dennis Kiesel of Posey County asked the APC to demand no interference with the radar from turbines.
Jean Bittner of Gibson County said property owners should be able to enjoy all of their property, and the Doppler radar should be protected from any wind turbine interference.
Rebecca Bratton said her family has farmed in Gibson County since 1811, and the wind turbine farms offer an opportunity to diversify for future generations. “There are a lot of rumors and misinformation out there,” she said. “Zoning should be a separate issue and should not be rushed,” she told the APC.
Gibson County Economic Development Corporation CEO-President Paul Waters said the organization has voted to support the concept of zoning but reserves the right to see the final ordinance.
Terry Unfried said rural residents have wants and needs that vary greatly from towns. “I don’t give a crap about developing this or that corridor ...” he said.
Josh Oren, a Posey County attorney, offered the APC written information regarding property value guarantees. He said the proposed ordinance as drafted contains “numerous flaws.”
Bob Schleter said he believes wind turbines are a good source of renewable energy if implemented properly, but he doesn’t believe zoning is the way to address some of the concerns about turbines here.
Mike Schleter said told the APC he was able to build his own home without zoning in place and he doesn’t care about turbines.
Dave MicKinney of Francisco told the APC he wants them to stop zoning and warned that if they don’t, then administering a zoning plan in the county could cost an estimated $300,000 per year.
Beverly Adler said the proposed wind farm could place a wind turbine on property 300 feet from the back of her house, and it’s a health risk to her two sons, who are at risk for seizures.
Email Andrea Howe at email@example.com.