Disturbing tranquil country living, infringing on property rights and chunks of ice hurling down from above.

Those were some of the reasons Cass County residents gave at a packed county commissioners meeting on Monday for opposing wind turbines being proposed for northern Cass County.

Renewable Energy Systems, or RES, headquartered in Kings Langley, England, is pursuing as many as 150 wind turbines about 600 feet tall in Adams, Bethlehem, Boone and Harrison townships.

Rules in Cass County would require the turbines to be a distance of a turbine blade's length from property lines, 1,000 feet from residential dwellings and 1,500 feet from incorporated limits. The county's wind energy ordinance does not enforce a noise limit on commercial wind turbines. 

Judy Kellems was one of about 10 Cass County residents who spoke out against the project at Monday's meeting.

"The people of northern Cass County have chosen to live here ... because we love it here," she said. "We love the tranquil and aesthetically pleasing rural way of life. We've chosen not to live among industrial parks or skyscrapers."

She urged county officials to change the property line setback to 2,640 feet and lower the permitted decibel limit. Cass County's wind turbine rules should also give residents the opportunity to declare a public nuisance and address the need for a turbine decommission plan with cost estimates with inflation built in.

Brenda Rusk said she's been contacted four times about signing contracts for allowing wind turbines to be erected on her land, describing it as "almost to the point of harassment."

Rusk added she's concerned she wouldn't be able to build on her property in the future if the area she wanted to build on would be too close to a neighbor's turbine.

Arin Shaver, executive director of the Cass County Planning Department, said after the meeting that any future residences that would be built would have to be 1,000 feet from any turbines but that Cass County's ordinance does not prevent accessory structures from going up at shorter distances.

Sara Craig, who lives in northern Cass County, told county commissioners she's concerned about the possibility of wind turbines throwing ice long distances.

Roger Dillman does not live in the part of Cass County the turbines are being considered for but shared a concern about emergency helicopters' ability to land near them.

Samaritan helicopters with Fort Wayne-based Parkview Health respond to emergencies in Cass County.

Jessica Miller, public relations manager for Parkview Health, said by phone on Monday that the hospital does not restrict its pilots from landing near wind turbines. Landings are based on what pilots consider safe, she continued, adding they're urged to be on heightened awareness when landing near tall structures. First responders on the ground are asked to identify tall objects in the area and relay that information to pilots, Miller also said.

Wind turbines were not on the Cass County Commissioners' agenda Monday but the subject dominated the meeting after officials opened the floor to public comments. Before inviting attendees to the podium, Cass County Commissioners President Jim Sailors explained it would be an opportunity for comments only rather than discussion and questions.

Sailors encouraged those who attended the meeting to ask their questions on provided forms so that officials can get the answers.

"I appreciate your conduct," Sailors told attendees at the end of Monday's meeting. "You've all been very, very nice and I appreciate that."

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

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