Windfarm neighbor: You should know this

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following was originally published only in the online edition of The Rochester Sentinel of Rochester, IN on Friday, November 10, 2017.)

As a Tipton County property owner, I did extensive research on the possible effects of having Industrial Wind Turbines. Our county was the first to attempt to have the turbines located close to residential homes and communities. Recently, I read Wind Watch online regarding Fulton, Miami, and Cass counties being interested in having a wind farm. I would like to pass along some findings of over 1,000 hours of research regarding this situation.

I first thought these things were green, non-toxic, and would be great for the environment. I researched audible and inaudible sounds that the wind turbines produce, underground infra-sound vibration, and what it does to the water aquafers. I looked into the effects of bird migratory patterns.

Some counties have changed their setbacks due to health risks. Whitley County is now a half mile from the property line. Noble County has a 3,960 foot setback, and a noise limit not to exceed 40 decibels at 1,000 feet from a turbine, and requires that a tower’s blinking lights be shielded. Tipton County’s setback is now 2,640 feet from a residence. Many other counties have a complete ban on wind farms. If there were no risks, why would all these counties be putting in stricter ordinances?? The World Health Organization recommends a minimum setback of 5,280 feet for children, elderly, and the chronically ill. The International Standards Organization recommends community noise limits of 35 decibels during daytime, and 25-30 decibels at night. Many European nations with more than two decades of experience with windfarms have setbacks of 3-5 miles. Denmark’s setback is four times the total height, and Holland’s is 3,280 feet.

Our County Commissioners were initially touting that “everyone was happy in Benton County” with the IWT’s. I sent a letter to the editor of the Lafayette Journal Courier stating I would like input from anyone regarding the impact of their turbines.

I received numerous replies (some anonymous) and others asking me not to use their name. The following letter is from an individual who supplied her address in Fowler, Ind. My husband and I visited their home, and experienced all of her claims first-hand. Most people who visit Benton County wind farms have appointments set up for a tour with the Benton County Wind Farm EDC. We wanted to go on our own.

Here is the letter:

“I live in Benton County. Feel free to come to visit us. We are right in the heart of the wind turbines. They surround our house. I DO NOT like having them so close to our house. When they put them in, our road was so busy I could not even go walking that summer. The noise REALLY bothers me, and I have never gotten used to it! Depending on which way the wind is out of, you can hear the noise in the house. It seems worse in the winter. I believe it’s due to the density of the air. This time of the year the “FLICKER” effect is really bad in the morning and in the evening. You feel like you always need to duck as you see the blades going around. When my son-in-law visits, he always asks how we can stand that. We feel we should be compensated. The landowners get paid for the rental of their land but we get no compensation and we were here first! When it is all said and done, the commissioners should have made the set back a lot further from the houses. We would still have the noise but at least we wouldn’t have the FLICKER effect. I wish I had known all this before they were put in. Everyone just kept on saying they will be good for the community. They are, only if you are a landowner. They don’t care at all about homes in the community. Then they wonder why nobody wants to live in Benton County. Don’t know that I want you to use my name because we, as well as many others, have received threats and property damage when we’ve complained, but feel free to use this information.”

Here is another letter:

“In response to your letter to the editor, Thursday, February 14, in the Journal Courier, this information may be what you need. Personal property value will fall like a rock. Benton County houses located within the wind farms are selling for whatever the owner can get. Many land owners where these wind generators are located do not live in the county. The average age of the lease owners is retirement age.

Wildlife has dwindled, but the rep for the company downplays this problem. Any time it snows, we go to where we used to see wildlife and there are no tracks to be found. Mosquito eating bats have disappeared too!

The companies brag that the local economy will boom, but that is temporary until the company is done installing these monsters. They tout that they will create hundreds of jobs, but that is not true either. The companies bring their own machinery operators, and in the end there might be 5-6 people that maintain the turbines, or are guards, or both.

In Benton County, this happened because few people knew about the turbines until it was way too late to do anything about it. This is how the companies manage to get this done everywhere. A decision of this magnitude should be decided after a debate over property values, who is responsible for that loss, and other issues such as blinking lights, noise, which is nauseating, and the strobe effect from shadow flicker.”

I have many other correspondences from people near the towns of Brookston and Fowler. I cannot attend your meetings due to health reasons but will make suggestions on what your citizens should consider, as well as the county officials regarding this very important situation.

Research: Shadow flicker, blinking lights, setback distances, noise related issues, low frequency and infrasound impact and decibel requirements, aesthetics, accidents, fires, wildlife impact, health issues, ice throw, wind turbine syndrome, property values, water aquifer damage, wind disturbance issues, lifeline helicopter landing limitations within a wind farm, bats and protected golden eagles and bald eagle deaths, China’s toxicity of rare earth metals, decommissioning clauses, and aerial crop dusting.

Knowledge is the key for everyone involved.

Nancy Carney
Sharpsville, Indiana

Metzger recuses himself

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

(The following was originally published in The Rochester Sentinel of Rochester, IN on Friday, November 17, 2017.)

BY WESLEY DEHNE
Staff Writer, The Sentinel

AND CHRISTINA M. SEILER

Managing Editor, The Sentinel

 

Fulton County Commissioner Steve Metzger told The Sentinel Thursday he will recuse himself from any future county business related to wind energy development.

 

The reason, he said, was because of “perceived conflicts of interest.” He denied any actual conflicts of interest pertaining to RES’ proposal to develop a wind farm in the county.

 

“Perception matters sometimes more than facts,” he said. “I think I probably should have done it earlier.”

 

He said he’s received direct criticism that his financial adviser is employed by RES and that his wife’s side of the family could potentially benefit from the project.

 

Metzger lives at 831 E. 650 South, which is within the area targeted by RES for as many as 133 wind turbines and $5.9 million in investment.

 

Prior to the Nov. 9 wind energy public forum hosted by commissioners at the Fulton Community Building, Metzger said he and his wife rent the home where they live. It is owned by her grandmother, he said.

 

When asked by The Sentinel if he would benefit financially through potential inheritance of that land because of the project, Metzger scoffed at the question. He said he does not know the details of his grandmother-in-law’s will.

 

Metzger said his relationship with Matt Berry, his financial adviser and a land acquisition manager for RES, was established well before the project was proposed.

 

“They just think I’m trying to get this wind farm project in for the benefit of my family or my wife’s family,” he said of opponents to the proposed project. “Links to corruption are being thrown up, and there is none. … I think they’re just trying anything they can at this point.”

 

He did note that his in-laws, who own land in the proposed project area, were contacted by RES to lease land. He said he is unsure if they signed a contract, adding “that’s none of my business.”

 

He also said some have been critical about his wife’s cousin putting up a MET tower as part of RES’ project.

 

“I’m not getting paid by anyone except the county,” Metzger said.

 

He’s been instructed by Fulton County Attorney Greg Heller not to participate in Monday’s public hearing, in which commissioners will discuss proposed amendments to the county’s commercial wind energy zoning ordinance. That public hearing will take place after commissioners’ 6 p.m. meeting in the Community Building at the Fulton County 4-H Fairgrounds.

 

Metzger is also not to discuss the ordinance or RES’ proposed project with commissioners Bryan Lewis and Rick Ranstead.

 

Prior to announcing his recusal, Metzger was challenged by Lynn Studebaker to provide all documents, copies of emails and phone records related to wind energy conversion projects in the county. Metzger’s personal email address and phone were included in the request.

 

“I didn’t think it was worth fighting it,” Metzger said of the request. “When they start saying civil suits and stuff like that, it’s just not worth it.”

 

Metzger added that he didn’t want to disclose private information.

 

“I have no vendetta against him,” said Studebaker, adding she simply speculated there may have been a conflict of interest. “I did not request any conversations that were personal.”

 

She told The Sentinel her request included Metzger’s personal email address because she learned from a second public records request of Fulton County Area Plan Director Casi Cowles that he was receiving information on county business in that manner.

 

“I really did not feel comfortable with him voting on this issue,” Studebaker said.

 

Metzger denied using his personal email for county business but said he would use his personal cellphone to check emails when away from the office.

 

Lewis and Cowles

 

Lewis and Cowles also have been asked about potential conflicts of interest.

 

Lewis’ father, Bill, owns and operates Lewis Backhoe, an excavating contractor. Should a wind farm gain approval from county officials, there will be excavating required for road, culvert and drainage building or repair.

 

Lewis thanked The Sentinel for the question and said he did not believe there would be much, if any, benefit to his father because much of the work Lewis Backhoe does now involves directional boring, or cutting trenches for conduit and small pipes.

 

A citizen called Cowles out because there was reaction from her Facebook page to calls from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 to get members to attend public meetings pertaining to the wind rules and project.

 

“This is a strong conflict of interest,” the woman said over the telephone. She would not give her name.

 

Two posts by James Gardner, the Local 150 business representative, were liked by the Facebook account Troy and Casi Cowles.

 

“I have no clue what you’re talking about,” Cowles said Thursday. “I rarely get on Facebook.” They do, she said, share an account.

 

“My husband is in the Local 150. He’s been in the local 150 for many years,” Cowles said. “He’s allowed to express his opinion. Some families don’t allow their members to voice their individual opinions. In my family, that’s OK.”

 

Cowles said there will not come a time where she will give a recommendation to county officials about how they should vote on the zoning regulations pertaining to wind power or on approving a wind farm.

 

It’s not her job to recommend, she said, only to prepare the information officials need to make an educated vote. “I think it’s more important to focus on the facts,” Cowles said.

 

Officials side against wind farm

STRONG EMOTIONS The crowd’s reaction after Commission President Bryan Lewis announced that commercial wind energy conversion systems would be stricken from the county’s zoning ordinance. More than 300 people attended the public hearing Monday night in the Community Building at the Fulton County 4-H Fairgrounds. The Sentinel photo/Shelby Lopez (Read article)

Noise from Industrial Wind Turbines

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

Noise is the most common problem with industrial wind turbines. The noise from industrial wind turbines is far different than other types of noise–it is low frequency and constant, like a hog exhaust fan which is then punctuated by rumbles and thumping as the blades swoosh past the tower. Wind turbine noise is often likened to “a jet engine which never lands”.

Wind turbines cause issues and dangers at far lower decibel readings than other common noise generators such as cars and farm machinery. In addition, those items “come” and “go”, yet
neighbors are subjected to wind turbine noise 24/7/365.

Excessive noise results in sleep disturbance, which is noted by ALL medical research as a serious health risk. Noise, especially nighttime noise, is associated with an increase in stress hormones leading to hypertension, stroke, heart failure, and immune problems.

The currently proposed decibel level for Fulton County is 50. This is equivalent to standing
directly beside a running clothes dryer 24 hours a day. Do you want your dryer running beside your ear while you watch tv? Do you want your dryer running beside the headboard of your bed? How about while you read to your child?

Because the sound generated by industrial wind turbine is low frequency, it can actually be worse inside of your house, since the walls and windows act as conduits of the noise.

Fulton County needs to set their wind turbine decibel level so that IT PROTECTS HE
HEALTH, WELFARE, AND SAFETY OF ITS CITIZENS. The current nighttime average in
quiet, rural Fulton County is 25 decibels or less. A level of 50 is far too loud and will harm and
endanger the health of our residents.

The National Institute of Health and the World Health Organization, along with many other
medical researchers, recommend a noise level no higher than 30 decibels inside the home, and no higher than 40 decibels outside the home. 50 decibels is NOT safe!!

Submitted by resident of Fulton County

Fulton County turbines taller than all skyscrapers in Indianapolis…

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

Aaron Ault, resident of Liberty Township of Fulton County presented on behalf of Fulton County, IN Property Rights group at the Public Meeting held by the County Commissioners on Thursday, November 9, 2017 in Fulton, IN. Mr. Ault is a Distinguished Alumnus of Caston School Corporation. This video was recorded by Nanette Sherrick and originally posted on her Facebook page and is republished here with her permission.

 

Take the time to watch!

Posted by Nanette Sherrick on Friday, November 10, 2017

Former commissioner tells about wind farms

(This was originally published in The Rochester Sentinel of Rochester, IN on Friday, November 3, 2017.)

Voice of the People

To the Editor; I recently read that Fulton County was presented information about a possible wind farm project. Tipton County went down this path in 2011.

We visited White and Benton Counties and heard nothing but great things. We also visited Iroquois County, Illinois to look at their roads. As a county commissioner, I was able to secure many positives for the county, but I missed a few things.

Setbacks: I did not take into account that the “standard” towers in Benton & White counties at 350’ in height with an ordinance setback from non-participating landowners of 1000’ should not apply ‘across the board’ in other counties where turbine heights were going to be 500’ and over. The taller the tower, the greater the setback should be and it should always be from the property line and never from the residential structure, as that limits the property owner full use of his/her property for outdoor use. A local government should never use a non-participating land owners’ own property as part of the setback (as in measurement from the structure) because a person should be protected via a setback from all locations of their own property. The non-participating citizens who are affected by the presence of the towers should not have to bear the ill effects of the turbines without compensation. Since I have now experienced first-hand the noise and shadow flicker in the homes of non-participating landowners at distances of even 1500 feet away, I would recommend a 1/2 mile setback from the property line of any non-participating land owner. A zoning ordinance allows people to do things on their own property, but it is also to protect adjacent owners. Some say that disallowing wind farms deprives a property owner of economic use of the land and is thereby an unconstitutional taking of private property without just compensation. However, that concept must be balanced by the fact that zoning regulations governing adequate setbacks are in place due to an obligation to insure public health and safety. Because this “economic development project” covers such a large geographical area of your county and affects numerous citizens, you cannot treat it the same way as another project that is confined to a few acres and affects only very few people. Protection of neighboring property values and enhancing the livability of your residents are the primary objective of the zoning ordinance and are of paramount importance to the overall “general welfare” of your county. In this case, you have many property owners affected by the project and their welfare should be prioritized over the deprivation of a few property owners’ land use for financial gain.

Property Values: The property values of the fields where the turbines are located will increase since the lease payment would be a ‘given’ every year. Shockingly, the wind company pursuing you is offering landowners far less per turbine than

what our landowners received! However, the property values of the non-participating landowners within even a mile of the turbines will decrease. It may not show in the “assessed value,” but the stark reality is that the pool of people interested in living in a home close to the turbines is far less than those interested in homes far away from the turbines.

Jobs: No one in our county was qualified for the permanent jobs and the 200 “local” jobs were given to union workers 50 miles away.

Community Partnership: The first year the company gave some sizable donations to various not for profits and philanthropies, but after that were absent from the community.

Tile Ditching: In the project area, tile ditchers experience laser and GPS equipment failure due to the magnitude of the voltage that is exuding from the underground cables. While trenching, they find that the dirt is an eerie gray “fried looking” color. If the location maps of the cables are not perfect, and because the high voltage disables the equipment’s technology, the safety of the crews installing the tiles is at risk. It is a problem we never anticipated.

Other Facts: We have 69 turbines. Investment was $175 million. With abatement, company will pay $3.5 million over ten years in property taxes and $7 million in the next ten. Our financial consultant conveyed that for the average “Joe”, this would amount to a $25 per year decrease in their property tax bill. Even those living in town who do not have a constant visual of the turbines, this was not worth a complete change in their landscape. You can see the towers in the daylight easily from 8 miles away. At night you can see the red blinking lights from 15 to 20 miles away.

The truth is that the turbines affect nearly everyone in your county in some way and it will most assuredly divide your community because the presence of the turbines are a constant reminder of the strife.

We have had three blade breaks in the 69 turbines. Our ordinance of a 1,000 foot setback was inadequate in protecting our non-participating citizens and their testimonials of despair are real. After seeing what this project did to Tipton County both aesthetically and to the quality of life for some, Clinton County, which has the highest wind speeds in the state, tabled turbines. Howard and Grant Counties voted to terminate their relationship with the same wind company for “Phase II”. Marshall and Hamilton Counties banned turbines. Many other counties increased setbacks to one-half mile for non-participating land owners. These neighboring counties learned a valuable lesson from our experience. Remember that you cannot “lose” money you never had coming into the county.

We were the guinea pig for the taller towers locating in a county with a weak ordinance. The company knew that many non-participants would be affected but they would never have to live in the same community with these folks and witness how the turbines have ruined their lives.

But I DO remain amongst the towers and live amongst the people who are adversely affected by them and deeply regret having signed the documents enabling the construction of the wind farm.

This is why I am sharing my experience with you all … so that you will not have to regret being a part of facilitating something that is a “windfall” to a few, but a curse to many. If you feel that the positives will outweigh the negatives for your county, then by all means at least incorporate greater setbacks to protect your non participating landowners who were “there first,” and make sure other aspects of your ordinance are “airtight” with respect to how complaints are handled and how and who enforces the provisions of your ordinance. Our ordinance was extremely weak, and our naivete was taken advantage of.

I wish you all the best in what may lie ahead. I reach out to you for only one reason: I wish someone had done the same for me.

Respectfully, Jane Harper
Tipton County Commissioner 2009-2012

Former official talks of turbines (‘I wish someone had done it for me’)

GROUNDED Above, Tipton County resident Greg Merida stands next to a wind turbine blade that broke and fell on his property in March 2014; below, another failed blade sits at the base of its turbine in the Wildcat I wind farm in Tipton County in April 2014. Tipton County has experienced a total of three blade failures, reports former county commissioner Jane Harper. Photos provided

(The following was originally published in The Rochester Sentinel of Rochester, IN on Friday, November 3, 2017. Slight formatting and editing changes have been made.)

BY CHRISTINA M. SEILER
Managing Editor, The Sentinel

Jane Harper wishes she knew then what she knows now.

The former Tipton County commissioner said Thursday she was responsible for helping approve Wildcat I Wind Farm in Tipton County and now greatly regrets that.

She read Fulton County’s proposed zoning code changes pertaining to commercial wind farms, she said, and was “absolutely stunned.”

So she reached out to The Sentinel via a Viewpoint page letter to the editor. That’s on Page 4 today. And she talked with The Sentinel over the telephone, noting she couldn’t say everything she wanted to in a single letter.

Harper is outspoken on the issue of large-scale wind energy production. She said everyone in her county was in the dark about the long-lasting effects of the wind farm. There are many. They now suffer for a variety of reasons, she said.

She believes Fulton County officials, if they approve amendments to the current zoning ordinance covering wind farms, will end up with “the weakest ordinance ever.”

She noted 1.5 times setback for a 500-foot-tall wind turbine would be 750 feet. Really not that much, she said.

She also said the fact the amendments remove the requirement that wind farms get special exceptions is “robbing the public of their right to a judicial review.”

If a special exception is granted, citizens can fight that through the court and the case goes to a judge in another county. “It puts it in the lens of someone on the outside,” Harper said. “So that is huge if they pass that. When I saw that I was absolutely stunned.”

Harper learned of Fulton County’s current situation through National Wind Watch, an organization that tracks wind power projects.

“I don’t have anything in it. I’m doing it because I wish someone had done it for me,” she said of informing people in potential wind farm areas about the pitfalls.

Not only is she living with her decision as a former county commissioner, but she lives in a wind farm area among the towers.

Harper also said:

  • Fulton County can’t compare a proposed project here to the ones in Benton and White counties. The towers are not the same size, nor are the population densities there. In White County, every single resident is compensated by the wind power company. Also, the towers there are smaller, in both height and blade size.
  • The presence of towers is constant. She said you can see the strobe lights on turbines from 15 miles at night. Noise can only be experienced fully by living among the towers. She compared it to when a jet passes over. In that case, the sound goes away. But among the towers it can be constant. At other times, the towers can sound like a pack of barking dogs, or like bearings moving. Sometimes, she said, there’s no sound. It’s all dependent on the weather, which changes constantly. “The shadow flicker, it’s real. The noise, it’s real,” Harper said.
  • She compared the financial offer of $4,000 per tower, which she read somewhere, to raping Fulton County citizens. Tipton County residents received $14,000 per tower.
  • Fulton County is probably one of the last counties in the state approached about a wind energy project for one simple reason – the wind here isn’t very good. That’s why taller towers are proposed, she said. Add in the county’s weak ordinance, she said, and the company sees profit. “Why do you think you’re one of the last counties in Indiana to be approached? You’re easy pickings,” she said.
  • The promises Tipton County received from the wind energy company were

false. “Not one person in our county was employed,” Harper said. After the first year of tower operations, she added, the county, its citizens and organizations received no more goodwill or contact from the company. “There’s nothing anymore. You don’t hear from them. They don’t care.”

  • The true benefits to people and government, including schools, from the wind project were negligible. Property taxes dropped about $25 a year. “That’s nothing. That’s like two pizzas. Big deal,” Harper exclaimed.

Note: Read comments and response from county officials in Saturday’s edition of The Sentinel.

 

Printable Poster for November 9th Meeting

Tipton County Indiana (east of Kokomo, IN).

A printable poster regarding the meeting at the Fulton Community Center on November 9th is now available. A suggestion would be to print a few and place them in your workplace, businesses and in the hands of your friends and neighbors, particularly those who don’t use the internet and may not receive The Rochester Sentinel and/or Shopping Guide News of Fulton County. Thanks for your help. (poster