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Commissioners may look at revised wind ordinance tonight

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

A revised wind energy ordinance is expected to be on the agenda when the Henry County Commissioners meet at 6 p.m. in the Henry County Courthouse.

Butch Baker, president of the commissioners, confirmed Tuesday morning the ordinance most likely would be ready for consideration.

“We’re still waiting on some final documents from county attorney Joel Harvey, but it’s anticipated the ordinance will be on our agenda,” Baker said.

The revised ordinance will hardly resemble the original version, according to Baker and fellow commissioner Kim Cronk. Cronk estimated about 70 percent of the changes in the new version came from public input.

“It’s a compromise all the way around,” Baker said. “Land owners and wind companies aren’t going to be happy because it’s a more restrictive ordinance. Anti-wind farm people aren’t going to be happy because it doesn’t kill all wind farm projects.”

Both Cronk and Baker said while tonight’s meeting might include the revised wind ordinance on the agenda, this would not be a full-blown public hearing on the matter. Any action would simply be to send the revised ordinance on for county planning commission review. A public hearing on the ordinance would be conducted by that governing body, which then would vote favorably or unfavorably, then send it back to the commissioners for final approval.

So, any comments on the wind issue would again be limited to the 15-minute period at the end of the commissioners’ meeting.

The new ordinance will be of particular interest to the New Castle-Henry County Municipal Airport Board.

That board recently authorized sending a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration expressing concerns about renewed plans for construction of 41 wind turbines in southern Henry County by Flatrock Wind LLC.

A major issue is the revised height of those turbines. Airport manager John Marlatt said plans call for the turbines to be 660 feet tall, more than twice the height of the original 300 feet in Flatrock’s prior proposal. Those heights would violate the revised ordinance commissioners are expected to consider today.

In the local airport letter, the FAA was advised the Board of Aviation Commissioners (BOAC) had “significant concerns” with the potential impacts of the proposed wind turbines, including radar and navigational device interference. The letter stressed these turbines “would adversely impact” the current and future operations of the airport and potentially hinder business opportunities and economic growth.

“It is requested that all facts relevant to the effect of the turbines on existing and planned airspace use, air navigation facilities, aircraft operations, procedures and minimum flight altitudes and other impacts...are thoroughly examined and considered throughout the process of this Aeronautical Study. The BOAC would very much like to be involved in discussions and decisions regarding the turbines and would request to be invited to any meetings between the FAA and the wind turbines sponsor,” the letter stated. 

Also on tonight’s commissioners agenda is the comprehensive plan for Henry County. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the Henry County Courthouse, 101 S. Main St., New Castle.