The potential construction of wind turbines in Pulaski County is drawing concerns from area residents. In the past several months, a number of filings have been made with the Federal Aviation Administration for possible wind turbines in the Francesville and Star City areas. A complaint about the proposal was brought to the Pulaski County Commissioners last week.
But nothing can go forward until permits are filed at the county level, according to Community Development Commission Executive Director Nathan Origer. “You can have all the federal filings in the world and all the FAA permits in the world you want, but until they start going through the zoning process, let alone the building permit process after that, there’s just nothing,” he explains. “It’s a nothingburger, as they say, for the time-being.”
Origer says that in order to build a wind turbine within Pulaski County’s jurisdiction, land zoned for General Agriculture would either need a special exception, or it would have to be rezoned to Intensive Agriculture. He adds that almost every possible scenario would require that residents have a chance to weigh in on the matter. “It goes through the public hearing process, either the plan commission for a change in zoning or the board of zoning appeals for a special exception,” Origer says. “If they go the special exception route, that decision is final but could be challenged in a court of law, by either a petitioner disappointed by the decision or a remonstrator. If it’s a plan commission rezoning decision, then it goes onto the commissioners for a final decision.”
Meanwhile, those opposing the wind turbines are asking the county to increase the required setbacks to half a mile from neighboring properties. Origer says that decision would ultimately be up to the plan commission, and such a change would also require a public hearing.
He points out that wind farm developers haven’t had much success in Pulaski County in the past. “Off and on over the last six or seven years, we’ve seen a handful of companies come through, and to this point, none of them have been able to secure enough landowners to be able to move forward in Pulaski County. Some of them, my office and the building and planning office have worked with, to help them navigate the rules, and worked with them until they decided it wasn’t going to happen and they weren’t even going to go through the application process.”
Origer says the next step for the county is to wait and see whether someone actually gets to the point of applying.