PRINCETON — Haubstadt family physician David Utley told Gibson County Commissioners Tuesday that he's shocked to learn how many people have no clue about proposed wind turbine development in Gibson County.

Utley said he has many concerns including what he described as how "secretive" the project is, potential devaluation of property and the impact of turbines on the county's National Weather Service radar tower near Owensville.

Utley urged commissioners not to meet privately with E.ON Climate and Renewables, and to push for wider setback requirements from roads and homes. Commissioner Gerald Bledsoe (who was not present at Tuesday night's meeting) and County Attorney James McDonald are meeting with E.ON representatives Friday to discuss road setbacks and other issues regarding county rights of way. Utley urged commissioners to meet together with E.ON in a public meeting "so the sunshine laws apply."

E.ON representatives addressed some general plans for proposed wind farms in Gibson County at a public meeting in March with commissioners. Gibson County Commissioner Mary Key said she's unable to meet with E.ON representatives Friday and Board of Commissioners President Steve Bottoms said Bledsoe is the representative primarily meeting with the company that day since his district is most affected by the proposed developments.

Utley said he has other concerns, including safety issues if falling ice is slung from the blades of the wind turbines. He said he has questions about radiation from turbine motors, and told commissioners that wind turbine syndrome is a real health risk that includes insomnia and nausea, problems with concentration and tinnitus.

The physician said the proximity of turbines to homes could cause migraines, sleeplessness and auditory problems. He said the turbines also pose complications for people who are prone to seizures.

Utley, who lives four miles west of Haubstadt, asked commissioners to push for turbines to be located no less than two miles from residential property.

"We have no authority whatsoever," Bottoms told Utley, other than enforcing county road bonding requirements, weight limits and road rights-of-way issues.

McDonald told Utley that he expects there will be "many meetings" before the project is totally defined.

The company has met with individual landowners for at least a year, Les Kiesel reminded the board. He and Utley said ordinances are needed to protect residents.

Bottoms said ordinances can't target one type of industry. "I'm totally neutral," he told them. "I do want E.ON to cooperate."

McDonald said that if the county had zoning in place, there would be a mechanism to accomplish some things for property owners. But he said any ordinance would have to regulate setback rules for all types of industries, including power plants, solar farms, coal companies, Toyota, etc.

One version of a proposed draft of the zoning ordinance abruptly scrapped last winter did contain zoning exemptions for wind turbines.

"I understand it's going to be a house-to-house, door-to-door fight to get this out of here," said Kiesel.

"What would happen if someone stood at your property and sounded a foghorn all day and all night?" asked Utley.

Bottoms and McDonald told him that living outside Haubstadt's zoning jurisdiction, anyone could put in any type of business next to his property and the county would have no control other than keeping up the roads.

"We don't have the law," Bottoms reiterated.

Kiesel urged commissioners to contact freshman Indiana House District 64 Representative Matt Hostettler to learn more about a home rule bill in conference committee and how communities can protect properties.

He said people in Hazleton and people living east of U.S. 41 are also being approached by the company.

Bottoms said commissioners can ask for more public meetings with E.ON, but it's up to the company to accept the invitation.

Mark Adler, who lives outside of Haubstadt, said he wants more landowners to become educated about the project, the potential size of the turbines and the lease specifications for property line setbacks. "We can't even be safe in our own yards," he said.

Bottoms and Key told Adler that they don't have the right to examine a citizen's private lease agreement.

Oakland City resident Bob Zasadny encouraged commissioners to search the internet and watch videos about wind turbine health issues.

© Copyright 2019, Tri-State Media, Princeton, IN.