Wind turbines spur property rights debate

By Makenna Mays
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — Some companies and citizens are at odds when it comes to who should have the power to determine where wind turbines are built.

“I’ve lived in the same house for 60 years and I like to get to get up and see the sunrise not a bunch of metal and things flying around,” said Michael Thompson, a resident of Clinton County.

The Interim Study Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications met Thursday at the Statehouse to listen to testimony from the industry and nearby residents concerned about the impact of giant turbines near their property.

Opposition from people like Thompson has stopped some wind turbine companies from being able to grow in Indiana. Now, lawmakers are weighing the rights of local government to limit turbine expansion and the desire to provide some uniformity to zoning to encourage industry growth.

At the committee hearing, turbine company Wind on the Wire held up Benton County property owner Bruce Buchanan as a positive example of local government and business working together.

“Anything that we sought to change or modify was done in a very accommodating way,” said Buchanan. “It set the basis for future projects.”

Benton County is the home of the first wind farm in Indiana and now has the largest number of wind turbines.

Merlin Custer, who lives in Rush County, owns an electrical contracting business and is concerned Indiana and the U.S. will soon face an energy shortage. He argued wind energy could be the solution. Additionally, he argued property owner rights should trump any decisions by the state.

“I think my rights should prevail as to what I can do on my land,” said Custer.

In the coming months, discussion for possible legislation will include whether the state should play a role in ensuring that there are no conflicts of interest on local decision making and whether the need for the state to step in and do any kind of state zoning is needed, Rep. David Ober, R-Albion, said.

“I personally believe that it’s not really a necessity for state zoning, that it is a local decision,” Ober said.

Makenna Mays is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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