It wasn’t the result opponents of the proposed Wells County wind farms wanted to see, but the Area Plan Commission approved the Apex Wind Energy plan, with conditions, for its two wind projects by a vote of 6-4 in the early hours of Friday morning.
Almost 1,000 people flocked to the Southern Wells gymnasium Thursday evening, and the large turnout forced a 15-minute delay to the start of the meeting. By the time the issue came down to a vote at approximately 1:15 this morning, that number had decreased significantly.
Speakers for and (mostly) against took until just after midnight to make their points to the board. APC Director Mike Lautzenheiser Jr. then read through each of the requirements stipulated in the county’s zoning ordinance to ensure the plan complied with each.
That didn’t quite prove to be the plain sailing that Apex officials had hoped, as Lautzenheiser announced that he did not believe the requirements relating to shadow flicker had been met. Lautzenheiser noted that worst-case scenario measurements indicated that 204 homes were potentially subject to more than 30 hours of shadow flicker each year.
Bill Horan advised that he would like to see this number reduced to 15 hours, noting that 12 homes of county residents who have not signed wind farm leases were subject to 15 hours or more.
Jarrod Hahn advised that Apex has not yet signed a road and drain use agreement with the county, and requested extra provisions to be placed in this agreement to ensure sufficient funds would be available to address any issues that may arise.
Finally, after reminding the crowd that the plan commission had held numerous hearings and meetings drafting the wind ordinance with minimal public attendance or objections, board member John Schuhmacher presented the motion, with lengthy “certain conditions” that included Hahn’s suggestions for drainage repair funds, specific stipulations for mitigating shadow flicker complaints and details on the two specific setback issues.
Wells County Economic Development Director Mike Row gave a presentation on the wind farm plan’s economic impact. Projections are that 15 direct jobs will be created, which standard formulae say will then create 25 indirect jobs.
Coupled with the lease payments to landowners, Row said the total annual impact would be about $1.3 million.