Tippecanoe Co. Commissioners Approve Wind Farm Ban, Discuss New Government Hires

May 6, 2019

Tippecanoe County commissioners heard from both sides of the wind farm debate at their meeting, including a presentation from resident Julie Peretin.
Credit Taylor Haggerty / WBAA News

Commercial wind energy technology is no longer allowed within Tippecanoe County. County Commissioners unanimously approved a ban on large-scale wind farms at their meeting Monday.

Wind farms have sparked contentious debate in several West Central Indiana counties. Tippecanoe County commissioners argue that because of the county’s high population density and potential for economic growth, the developments aren’t a good fit.

County resident Julie Peretin represented the supporters, and delivered a presentation on population density and economic growth.

“This is the citizens of Tippecanoe County in the rural areas saying, ‘This is not the type of commercial development or industrial development that we want,’” Peretin says.

Resident Derek Reuter spoke against the ban during the meeting.

“You’re in a community hosting Purdue University, an educational institution renowned worldwide for engineering, and here, our county commissioners are going to vote to accept a ban limiting innovation, growth,” he says.

Commissioner Tom Murtaugh has argued in favor of the ban as it has progressed through committees. He contends limiting turbines isn’t stopping growth; it’s encouraging it.

“Without limiting wind farms, we are in fact limiting growth in the county by tying up those tens of thousands of acreage,” Murtaugh says.

Commissioner David Byers says he was conflicted on the issue.

“It’s one of those situations where you just simply have to take the whole county as a whole picture,” Byers says. “I still want – if the private individual wants to put one up, they’re still able to put one up.”

The ordinance still allows for individual landowners to build small turbines shorter than 140 feet in height on their property. The commissioners specifically discussed the turbines used by CityBus of Lafayette, which are a few feet taller than that limit but previously received a zoning variance.

Commissioners also discussed requests for new positions within county government. Tippecanoe County government officials would like to grow their offices -- but the number of requests came as a surprise to county commissioners.

Twenty-seven total new positions have been requested. Twenty-one of those are in law enforcement, with a dozen at the sheriff’s department and seven in the county prosecutor’s office.

Commissioner Tracy Brown says the cost for that many new hires is too high.

“I can pretty surely say that it’s highly unlikely we would be able to afford 27, 28, 30 – whatever those numbers end up being,” Brown says.

The funding for many of those positions would come from the county’s general fund – an ask that concerns the commissioners. They recommended departments prioritize the jobs they need most, and discussed the idea of a higher income tax to fund public safety.

Byers says they had previously asked departments for long-term hiring plans, and the numbers presented at Monday’s meeting didn’t line up with those discussions.

“Two years ago, everybody said, ‘Nope, we don’t need all of this.’ And now we’re getting it,” Byers says. “So that’s all, I’m just curious.”

The commissioners did not approve or deny any positions, many of which still need to be processed by the human resources department. They plan to revisit the discussion at their June meeting.

The county’s annual budget hearings are slated for later this summer.