Fulton County Commissioners heard from one person Monday about a proposed wind farm in south Fulton County.
Russ Phillips, a former Caston school principal who lives in the proposed wind farm area, came to their meeting with a set of questions.
He received answers to some, but not all, of them. There are some things, commissioners said, they just don’t know yet about the proposed wind farm.
Commissioner Steve Metzger is tasked with following and assessing the proposed project, which would bring 300 wind turbines to south Fulton County, northwest Miami County and northeast Cass County, as many as 100 in this county south of County Road 400 South.
The investment by RES Group in Fulton County would be about $500 million, similar to what’s planned for Miami and Cass counties, Metzger said.
Commission President Bryan Lewis said he believes Fulton County is about three months behind the other two counties in the process, but can’t hurry it along without knowing more.
He wants to hear from residents in the affected area of the county. He wants to know if they favor the project or not. In the future, he said, commissioners would like to have a public meeting about the project, possibly at Caston Educational Center.
Upon questioning from Phillips, commissioners said they are considering hiring Barnes and Thornburg law firm and Umbaugh financial consulting firm to represent them in negotiations with RES. The other two counties already have done that.
Commissioner Rick Ranstead said commissioners want to finish amendments to the wind ordinance before they engage any consultants.
The Fulton County Area Plan Commission is expected to vote on proposed amendments at its next meeting, 7 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Fulton County Office Building. Then the amendments would go to commissioners in October.
They will have three choices: approve them; suggest changes and send them back to the plan commission; or vote them down. If they send changes back, the commission would discuss them and could send another version to the commissioners, or not. Phillips also asked if the commissioners know how Fulton County would benefit from a large-scale wind energy farm.
Ranstead said he’s heard there will be incentive money from the company for schools and governmental entities. That’s why the consultants would be hired, to help with that process.
“We don’t know yet. There could be money to supplement,” Lewis said. “There’s a lot of things to consider. We don’t know yet where things will go.”
Metzger said it’s only been two weeks since owners could begin indicating their willingness to lease land to RES.
Phillips urged commissioners to attend a 9:30 a.m. Oct. 5 renewable energy interim study committee meeting at the Indiana Statehouse as he’s learned wind energy will be part of the committee’s agenda.
He also talked about property values and population density setbacks.
He would like the zoning code to include a density setback to protect those who have a home in the middle of turbines, he said.
He thinks the company should stand behind its belief their turbines won’t hurt property values. “If RES is so confident there’ll be no property devaluation I’d like to see there’s some sort of property value guarantee in the contract,” he said.
And commissioners, when answering one of Phillips’ questions, reminded him there’s nothing stopping the company from going ahead with its project whenever it wants. The county’s wind energy ordinance has been in place for years.
Amendments, said County Attorney Greg Heller, were needed and provide residents more protections. The RES project sped them along, he added.