Porter County now has the framework in place to welcome a major new
industry: Alternative energy.
The Porter County Commissioners on Tuesday approved two amendments to the
county’s Unified Development Ordinance establishing the county’s first-ever
regulations on wind energy systems. One ordinance spells out the rules for
small-scale, individual turbines, and the other consists of regulations for
large wind farms.
TradeWind Energy, based in Kansas, is currently in the process of getting
leases in place from property owners in south Porter County, specifically in
Pleasant Township, for a new wind farm, county officials said. The company
has provided input on the new ordinance, which the county needed in order to
allow the wind farm since no such rules have been in place before.
Porter County Commissioner President Robert Harper emphasized that the new
wind farm ordinance was developed after an enormous amount of work by a plan
commission study committee, which reviewed other ordinances and visited wind
farms, including the one in Benton County. He said the county’s ordinance is
no more or less restrictive than what’s in place elsewhere.
Plan Commission assistant director Ray Joseph said the TradeWind company is
also satisfied with the county’s new rules, calling it a “pro-wind”
ordinance. He said the company is eyeing about 10,000 acres in Porter County
for the new wind farm.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said.
Added South County Commissioner Carole Knoblock: “This is our future.”
The commissioners suspended the rules and adopted the ordinance on first
reading dealing with the small turbine systems. The ordinance on the
large-scale wind farms will come back for a second reading because of an
error in the description.
Both ordinances spell out various regulations dealing with height, setbacks,
noise and other technical concerns.
Among the requirements for individual wind turbines is a rule that a
property owner has at least 2.5 acres or else obtains a special exception
from the Porter County Board of Zoning Appeals.
North Porter County Commissioner John Evans questioned if that requirement
is too restrictive. Noting that turbines can require an significant upfront
investment, Evans said individual property owners who want to be energy
conscious might not be able to recoup their costs if they must have that
large of a lot size.
But Joseph said the ordinance as it is now is only a starting point for
Porter County, noting that wind turbines are a relatively new technology
that the county has never regulated before.
Harper suggested suspending the rules to finalize the ordinance rather than
wait for another meeting, since there are people in Porter County lining up
contractors to get their wind systems in place.
The second ordinance dealing with the large-scale wind farms includes a
requirement that the turbines must be located at least 1,000 feet away from
minor subdivisions and 3,000 feet away from larger subdivisions and places
of worship. The setbacks rules, however, can be adjusted by the BZA.
The maximum height of a wind farm turbine can be up to 500 feet. Joseph said
that height is needed because the wind in Porter County tends to be of a
higher elevation. The ordinance also spells the agencies that must be
contacted of the route used to transport the wind turbines during
construction and a ban on shadow flicker on houses and on road
For the third year in a row, the county commissioners have agreed to provide
county funding for the Portage Adult Education, which provides adult
learning centers throughout the county, including one in Chesterton.
The stability of Porter County’s adult education has been in doubt ever
since late 2007, when the Portage Township School Board threatened to cease
serving as the fiscal agent for the program due to its costs for absorbing
an annual deficit that’s been in the $130,000 range. Since then, the program
has stayed afloat through a patchwork of funding from various sources,
including the county’s share of the county income tax.
Harper said the county funding will keep adult education afloat for at least
another year, as it continues to try to secure state funding for a long-term
The commissioners also approved a quit claim deed relinquishing a county
easement for a platted but unbuilt road at Lake of the Four Seasons.
Attorney Ted Fitzgerald, representing the LOFS Property Owners Association,
said the POA is proposing to build the road at its own expense in order to
provide another entrance to the community. The road will be gated and
accessed via a card system used by residents and emergency vehicles.
The commissioners gave their annual approval for the Porter County Red
Ribbon Committee to use the county administration center for the annual
kick-off of Red Ribbon Week and to place ribbons on county grounds as a
symbol of the efforts to combat alcohol and drug abuse. Harper commended Red
Ribbon committee chair Jackie Sterling for her years of service to the
The commissioners also approved a request from the Salvation Army of Porter
County to hold a “Kettle Kick Off” on the County Courthouse square at noon
on Nov. 12. The event will kick off the Salvation Army’s annual kettle