Tipton County windmill farms pit neighbors against each other
Tipton County residents concerned about wind farms packed a public meeting Wednesday, to talk about the future of wind energy in the county.
As Jerry Lawrence and his dog, Juggie, played fetch in the backyard of his home in rural Tipton County, Lawrence looked out into the distance.
"Once, you had pretty blue skies," he said.
Now, though, dotting the bucolic landscape Lawrence once enjoyed, was a different sight.
"You've got all of these around you," said Lawrence, waving his hand.
He was talking about almost 100 wind turbines that generate electricity for the east coast.
"Once these leaves leave my tree here, you can look around and can count 63 around here," said Lawrence.
He said protests took place when the first windmill farm came to town two years ago.
"When they first started these, they had a petition about that thick and with all the money that's going to be made in this, I couldn't done anything. They wouldn't have heard me," Lawrence said.
On some days, though, Lawrence said he could hear the windmills.
"It sounds like a jet getting ready to take off," Lawrence explained.
The noise in Tipton County Wednesday, though, wasn't coming from the windmills, at least not directly.
"We're a one-issue organization. When the windmills go away, we go away," said a representative with Tipton County Citizens for Responsible Development.
Hundreds from the group wore white t-shirts that read "No Wind Farm" to protest more windmills coming to Tipton County.
Wednesday's public meeting with the Tipton County Planning Commission at the county fairgrounds was to debate how future windmill farms in Tipton County should be regulated or if windmills even belonged there at all.
"They are an eyesore in my opinion and obviously in the opinion of many others," said one man, gesturing to the large crowd around him.
"I think people will view this as a symbol of progressive thinking and would want to join our county and become part of its future," said another man, who was in favor of the windmill farms.
"This has probably been the most divisive issue I've ever seen in this county," explained Tipton County Planning Commission President Jason Henderson. "It's pitted neighbor against neighbor and people who would wave to each other, now don't talk to each other."
Lawrence didn't mind talking, though, about the sights and sounds, he just can't avoid.
"I really don't like 'em," said Lawrence. "They're noisy. They look ugly."
As darkness fell across Tipton County, the debate continued and the windmills became a series of blinking red lights, dotting the night sky.
No matter what laws will govern future wind mill farms set up in Tipton County, the windmills here now won't be going anywhere.