Last week, Darlington Town Council members voted to enact an ordinance intended to reduce the noise from a nearby proposed wind turbine project.
The ordinance reaches beyond the town’s borders, but council members believe they can use an Indiana law intended to protect citizens from health hazards to do so.
Members of No Wind Farms Montgomery County, a group of concerned citizens battling the construction of wind farms, gave the town council a copy of the law and an ordinance to use as a foundation. The ordinance, which was approved by a 5-0 vote, focuses on “noise regulation of wind energy conversion systems.”
Wind turbine opponents claim there are many health issues that may result from living near a wind turbine, as well as a decrease in property values and environmental issues.
“We feel towns have the right to pass this ordinance to protect their citizens,” said Bill Milam, a No Wind Farm member.
The new ordinance states a wind turbine noise level cannot exceed 38 decibels.
At a recent Montgomery County Commissioner’s meeting, a representative from Akuo Energy USA, which is developing Sugar Creek Wind in the Darlington area, said such a low decibel would be “nearly impossible” to accomplish.
At the recent Darlington Town Council meeting, attorney Kent Minnette explained the ordinance to the council. After a lengthy discussion, the council voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance.
A representative from Sugar Creek Wind did not return a call to the Journal Review.
Erin Baker, who works for Apex Clean Energy as a senior development manager, said she has not seen the wording of the ordinance, but had heard it passed and has questions. Apex is second company developing the Roaming Bison Wind Project in northwest Montgomery County and Fountain County.
“I have heard about the ordinance and have also heard it is a liberal interpretation of the Indiana statute, but that is for an attorney to decide,” Baker said. “I hate the thought of a lawsuit, and I am hoping we can avoid it.”
The way the ordinance is written it gives the town clerk responsibility to enforce the new ordinance as well as levy a fine of $2,500 each day to violators.
Darlington Town Clerk Michelle Cash said the town council meeting had approximately 30 people in attendance. Several citizens spoke in favor of the ordinance, while no one spoke against the ordinance.
“I was really surprised no one really spoke against the ordinance,” Cash said. “The council members seemed all for it from the very beginning.”
The question now remains whether the new ordinance will draw litigation against the town by local landowners who have contracted for a wind turbine or from Akuo Energy/Sugar Creek Wind.
Minette said Wednesday that as far as he knew, every time the legality of the ordinance had been questioned in court, it was upheld. However, he added each case he has studied was in a county with planning and zoning in place. He said the fact there was zoning in place in those counties turned the question into a zoning issue and not a property rights issue.
No Wind Farm representative have been attending town council meetings throughout Montgomery County encouraging councils to pass a similar ordinance as the Darlington ordinance.
To date, no other town has adopted such an ordinance.