Tuesday morning's news that a proposed plan to bring wind turbines to Cass County is no longer being considered was applauded by some and castigated by others.
Without doubt, the debate that has raged for months over whether Renewable Energy Systems, or RES, should build wind turbines in the county has been among the most divisive in recent history. It pitted friends, family members and neighbors against each other. In a recent Public Forum, one Cass County resident shared how his family had fallen victim to the ferocity of the debate: "My son should not have to come home from school and ask why his schoolmates' parents or guardians will not wave or acknowledge him anymore."
Proponents pointed to the potential for increased revenues for the county, more jobs and a cleaner option for generating electricity as some of the reasons to support the plan. Opponents cited potential health concerns, negative impacts on property values and dangers to wildlife among reasons to stand against the introduction of wind turbines to rural Cass County.
Those debates are likely to continue indefinitely. And there's always a chance another wind turbine company will show interest in Cass County in the future, reigniting the battle.
The Pharos-Tribune has published dozens of stories and opinions from both sides during this tumultuous period. We have presented information from experts on both sides to help our readers make more educated decisions for themselves. But we have, quite deliberately, never taken a side in the debate. Rather, we have focused on the process.
When it became clear that citizens were not satisfied that their concerns were being heard by their representatives in local government, we wrote:
"Before wind farms are fully considered for introduction into Cass County, all concerns need to be openly and fully addressed. ... Scientific data and input from residents where similar turbine projects are already in place should be welcomed and open dialogue encouraged on both sides of the issue. We also support calls for meetings to be held in the evening as well on this issue, which would allow working folks to attend and have their viewpoints heard."
Earlier this month, the Cass County Plan Commission decided it would vote at its meeting next month on whether to create a committee that would conduct research and consider possible changes to the county's wind energy rules. The decision came after residents demanded a chance to voice their opinions publicly, frustrated that the commission had not met since January. Krista Pullen, a plan commission member, said "I'm concerned there's something we're missing and I would like to propose that we put a committee together to look at this a little further." Stacy Odom, also a plan commission member, added "With the number of people that are concerned, I think it's appropriate we do take a second look at it."
Now, less than a month later, the plan is dead.
Some will see this as a success. Others will see it as a failure. Perhaps wind turbines would have brought all the supposed positives to our area without any of the presumed negatives — or maybe the opposite. Most likely, as has been the case elsewhere, the reality would have not been quite as black and white as the heated arguments for and against wind turbines.
But one thing is certain: The power of the people to instigate change and stand up and fight against a proposition they feel is wrong cannot be underestimated. It's a lesson that should ring loudly for anyone who has ever complained that their opinions do not matter or that they are powerless to push back against what they perceive as preordained intentions of their government.
Cass County Commissioners President Jim Sailors said early Tuesday: "They've stopped the project. It's what they wanted to do."
That is the power of the people.