Cass Co. officials to explore wind rules

Fran Ruchalski | Pharos-TribuneThe debate over placing wind turbines in Cass County turned family members against one another and neighbor against neighbor.

The Cass County Plan Commission on Tuesday decided to have one of its committees delve into local rules on commercial wind energy generation.

Commission members Jim Donato, Josh LeDonne, Mike Kinsey, Stacy Odom, Krista Pullen, Fred Seehase and George Stebbins voted to task the commission's ordinance committee with the responsibility. Commission members Jon Guy and Jim Sailors were not present. Odom, Pullen, Sailors and Seehase serve on the commission's ordinance committee.

Arin Shaver, executive director of the Logansport/Cass County Planning Department, explained that she and the committee will research and prepare any recommendations, which would be shared at a public hearing. Any rule changes recommended by the plan commission would have to be approved by the Cass County Commissioners before going into effect, Shaver added.

The plan commission decided to consider conducting research on commercial wind energy generation last month. Two weeks later, Renewable Energy Systems, an international company with a U.S. headquarters in Broomfield, Colorado, announced it was no longer pursuing a commercial wind energy project in Cass and Miami counties due to technical circumstances. The project was a contentious issue for about the past year.

Tuesday's plan commission meeting drew public comments from several Cass County residents.

Paige Woodhouse, Royal Center, said a petition Cass County residents started almost a year ago has amassed 1,850 signatures calling for setbacks between commercial wind turbines and nonparticipating property lines to be a half-mile. The county's current setbacks are the length of a turbine blade from nonparticipating property lines and at least 1,000 feet from residences.

Woodhouse encouraged the plan commission to request that the county commissioners place a moratorium on future potential commercial wind energy projects while the plan commission's ordinance committee conducts its research.

"At this moment with our ordinance, we are sitting ducks ready to be attacked by the next company," Woodhouse said.

Woodhouse went on to encourage county officials to consider wind turbine height restrictions along with stricter sound and shadow flicker restrictions. Other suggestions included using a multiplier to determine setbacks based on turbines' specific heights, requiring developers' decommissioning funds upfront, requiring a wider range of notification when projects are proposed and even banning commercial wind turbines altogether like other Indiana counties have done.

Lora Redweik, Twelve Mile, questioned Sailors' ability to be impartial on the committee exploring the wind rules because of his support for RES' project.

Reach Mitchell Kirk at mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5130.

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Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He covers Logansport and Cass County government. He can be reached at mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com or by phone at 574-732-5130.