PIEDMONT, Okla. – Embedded in rural Concho wind turbines spin at the will of the wind. But it was the will of the residents of Piedmont who put the brakes on those blades from swirling in their backyard.
“Initially, there were some were pretty angry about this,” City manager Jim Crosby said many were concerned about property values, and the suspected health and safety risks that could come with a wind farm.
Apex Clean Energy wants to bring a $470 dollar project with a promise of 200 jobs. But some residents weren’t hypnotized by the idea of five hundred foot units around town, possibly creating noise and an eye sore.
Those concerns launched a 15 month battle. With no clear way to stop the company, the Central Oklahoma Property Rights Association (COPRA) was formed. The residents and the City of Piedmont sued Apex.
“It was in a joint prosecution agreement to enforce a three mile public nuisance buffer around the city where they could not have the turbines,” said Pam Suttles of COPRA.
And like an unexpected whirlwind, Apex decided to settle, backing off of its original plan and giving residents options
“I think we’re the only town in the country that has made this type of agreement with them so I think it was a wonderful thing for everybody and I’m ecstatic over it. I think we got a great deal,” said Crosby.
The company not only agreed to the three mile buffer in some parts of the city, but to also keep the height of the units under five hundred feet tall. Also in the agreement, not having the units fifteen hundred feet away from homes that did not participate in the program. Apex also agreed to put in 52 fewer units.
While the controversy has somewhat blown over, lone city council member Al Gleichman still doesn’t want the wind units and says he represents others who feel the same way.
“There’s always one or two people who don’t want them at all but by and large I think the majority of people, about 95 percent are happy,” said Crosby.
Another benefit is the school system will get the ad valorem tax revenue.
Apex sent News Channel 4 a statement that reads in part, “We are committed to working with nearby communities….and we are pleased that we have been able to find a way to build the project that addresses the concerns of the City of Piedmont.”
And as the city’s slogan states…the winds of progress are stirring.