Invenergy LLC representative Greg Leuchtmann presented a statement at the Area Plan Commission’s Ordinance Committee meeting July 7, refuting a proposed correction to the Unified Zoning Ordinance. He claims the change would limit Invenergy’s development plans by 45%.
But a simple examination of the facts reveals that Invenergy has no right to up to 5,800 acres in the first place.
Tippecanoe County’s Unified Zoning Ordinance states that no structure may be built within 1000’ of a turbine once it has been placed. Clearly, this is a safety buffer due to the industrial, utility nature of wind-generated electricity developments.
The ordinance also states, in Section 4-11-11(i), that commercial wind turbines must be placed 1000’ from the house on a neighboring non-leased property -- but this wording was a mistake. The County originally intended to require 1000’ from the PROPERTY LINE of a neighboring landowner.
This mistake – as well as a correction plan -- was explained by APC Executive Director, Sallie Fahey, at the Ordinance Committee’s June meeting. The minutes are now approved and available as public record.
“We think the ordinance should be changed… if a non-participating property in a wind farm already has a couple of parcelized lots or plans to subdivide in the future they might not be able to do that if there is a wind turbine within 1000’. In some instances a house may not be able to be built
on an existing lot. That seems unfair to a neighbor of a wind farm,” said Ms. Fahey.
The Ordinance Committee unanimously recommended that the County approve a revision specifying setbacks measured to property lines of non-leased land, not the home.
But Invenergy LLC responded in July with a request that the County require 1000’ setbacks be measured to homes, citing a loss of 5,800 acres or 45% of intended development land.
This statement, now public record, indicates that up to 45% of the property the Chicago-based wind giant intends to use in our county trespasses 1000’ safety buffers onto the properties of neighbors.
Those non-leasing neighbors would fully bear the loss of property use due to the turbine.
Furthermore, that 1000’ number itself is very controversial. It is an old number set by the industry years ago, when turbines were smaller and there were fewer wind-power developments.
As new information becomes available concerning the fast-moving wind industry, companies and governments are becoming savvy to the need for revised setback standards.
The Vestas company states in their turbine maintenance manual, available online: “A turbine connected to the grid implies certain elements of danger if it is handled without exercising proper caution… Do not stay within a radius of 1300 ft from the turbine unless it is necessary… Make sure that children do not stay or play nearby the turbine.”
Eveline MI requires 2600’ setbacks to non-leased property lines, allowing reduced setbacks to neighboring leased properties. Zoning Ordinance revised 11/09, Charlevoix County.
Some Tippecanoe County residents have also proposed a ½ mile buffer between non-leased property lines and turbines as a sensible compromise that could accommodate the rights and interests of all.
Our community would be wise to recognize that this issue is, at the core, a matter of basic property rights.
If a landowner has a right to construct whatever he wants on his own property, then his neighbor does as well. Safety buffers overlapped onto non-leased land will render thousands of acres unusable to their owners, who will continue to pay taxes on useless and potentially dangerous property.
Invenergy needs to readdress their lease policy. They should approach all affected property owners to determine acceptable agreements in turbine placement.
Invenergy needs to sign lease agreements with, or buy out, the properties intended to bear the safety buffers of their turbines.
Otherwise, they need to place their turbines completely within the confines of the properties they legally lease. And they must do it according to the regulations our county puts in place to protect the interests, property value, health and safety of its residents.
At InvenergyLLC.com, the company touts “a pro-active approach to building strong relationships with landowners.”
Asking the County's permission to trespass on thousands of acres is certainly one “pro-active” way of building those “strong relationships.”