By Donna Thornton
Pioneer Green Energy, the company that has proposed putting wind turbines on a Lookout Mou-ntain ridge, is hosting a meeting at the Etowah County Courthouse from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday (April 13) to offer more information about their plans.
Etowah County Commissioner Kenney Tidmore and Etowah County CEO Patrick Sims advise the curious and the concerned to come to the meeting with their questions about the proposed wind farm.
The commission seems to have been cast in an unusual role in the wind farm saga. Pioneer Green outlined plans before the commission months ago, proposing to put about 40 turbines on a ridge some seven miles north of Gadsden. Local land owners with concerns and complaints have come before the commission, too, and they’ve received calls from county residents.
However, the commission has no authority to approve or disapprove the project. Tidmore said it is an arrangement between a private land owner and a private company, in an unincorporated area of the county.
There are no zoning laws or other regulations that apply, and the commission has no authority to stop the project.
Though the commission has no control over the project, it’s members have been educating themselves about it – to the point of taking a trip to Sheldon Township, New York recently to see a Pioneer Green wind farm in operation.
Tidmore, Sims and Heather New, president of the The Chamber, Gadsden-Etowah County, traveled to upstate New York recently. Sims said the commissioners paid for their own trip.
They did more than the company tour. Tidmore and Sims said they talked to landowners and business owners and visited the property tax offices in the area to see if the wind farm had harmed property values in the area.
Sims said assessed property values had not dropped since the farm was established there – that they had continued to have 3-5 percent growth since that time. He said that may be a unique situation in that particular county; that results could be different in another area.
Property values are a concern for the county because so much revenue for local schools and local government comes from property tax. Sims said they wanted to know if they could expect a drop in revenue property tax suffered as a result of the project.
Sims said he was told there had been staunch opposition to the wind farm there, in region that does have “home rule,” giving the county governing body some regulatory authority over such a project.
“The county administrator got death threats and his mailbox was blown up,” Sims said. But after the wind farm has been in place, he said the opposition seems to have blown over.
Tidmore said surrounding land owners said they hardly noticed any noise from the turbines – that they got used to it.
Both Tidmore and Sims said they stayed in a hotel near three turbines and both went outside in early morning hours when it was quiet to hear what they could hear. While both said they may not have the best of hearing, they noticed no noise from the turbines.