The debate over whether industrial wind turbines will one day be introduced in Cass County has reached a fever pitch.

According to a Pharos-Tribune article published on Dec. 14: "Renewable Energy Systems, or RES, an international company headquartered in England with a U.S. headquarters in Colorado, is pursuing as many as 150 wind turbines about 600 feet tall in Adams, Bethlehem, Boone and Harrison townships in Cass County. RES also wants to erect turbines in Fulton and Miami counties, although Fulton County Commissioners took a stance against the project last month when they voted to remove wind turbine rules from the county's zoning ordinance."

Our online poll last week posed the question:

Are you in favor of industrial wind turbines being built in Cass County under the current regulations? Current rules dictate that turbines must be a distance of a turbine blade length from property lines, 1,000 feet from residential dwellings and 1,500 feet from incorporated limits. Their noise levels would not be permitted to exceed 60 decibels at the nearest residence.

Responses to the poll were overwhelming. More than 600 readers responded — we generally receive 100-200 — and the results show an even split on the issue. Those in favor of wind turbines: 48.7 percent. Those against (including those totally against wind turbines coming to Cass County and those who at least think rules governing such issues as setbacks should be stronger): 49.3 percent.

Cass County officials based the current rules on White County's, but the Meadow Lake Wind Farm in that county has turbines that are smaller than those proposed here.

While there are clear economic advantages to wind farms — like helping control energy costs and providing short-term, high-paying jobs during the construction phase — there are also clear causes for concern — like possible noise pollution, shadow flicker, creating obstacles for pilots and concern over how local fire departments would respond to a fire 600 feet in the air. Additionally, there is an argument to be made that the resale value of homes in areas where turbines tower overhead may be negatively impacted. And there are legitimate concerns about how the introduction of wind turbines might affect avian populations.

Before wind farms are fully considered for introduction into Cass County, all concerns need to be openly and fully addressed. It's clear that the subject is one of the most divisive in recent memory for our county, with serious implications for taxpayers — both in terms of economic impact and quality of life. 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.

The Cass County Commissioners meet at 1 p.m. on the first Monday of each month and 9 a.m. on the third Monday of each month in the Commissioners Hearing Room on the second floor of the Cass County Government Building, 200 Court Park.

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.

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