(BUCHANAN CO. Mo.) -- The hot topic of wind turbines has blown its way into Buchanan County.
Around 300 people showed up at an informational meeting Monday night at the San Antonio Fire Department to discuss the pros and cons of wind energy.
There are preliminary talks about the possibility of erecting up to 100 wind turbines in eastern Buchanan County.
"Obviously, this is going to be a controversial issue," said Buchanan County Eastern District Commissioner Scott Burnham. "This will be the most divisive issue I've dealt with since being in office."
Burnham said he came to the meeting only as an observer, saying he felt responsible to his constituents to learn more about such an important issue.
"I want my voters to know that it's something I care about," Burnham said. "I'm going to do what I can to educate myself so I've got all the information when it comes time to make a decision."
Burnham said he hopes Buchanan County can avoid some of the issues that went on in DeKalb County, where they already have 97 wind turbines in operation, built by the NextEra energy company based out of Florida.
There are still hard feelings among county residents on both sides of the issue.
"We're hoping to bypass that part of the conversation and seriously get to see if they are "pro" to look at the other issue and not look at the other issue so we can keep some peace in the county and and have some better resolution," said Steve Reardon, who organized Monday's meeting. Reardon a member of the Buchanan County Planning and Zoning Board and will be among the group that ultimately makes a recommendation to Buchanan County Commissioners.
Eleven years ago, Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that requires the state to increase usage of renewable energy sources to 15 percent by the year 2021. As of now, the state is currently at six percent. But as wind farms continue to be developed, so does the controversy.
Those on both sides of the debate made presentations
"It's renewable. There's no carbon involved like burning fossile fuels. It's totally clean energy. Very simple,"said Bob Evans, CEO of GEO Applications. Evans said he had been in the energy industry for 40 years. Evans also cited climate change as a reason to shift to more forms of green energy.
Meanwhile, the presiding commissioner of DeKalb County, Kyle Carroll, had some caution for Buchanan County as it moves forward with discussions on wind turbines and their potential for success in the future.
"My opinion is it's going to be a long-term answer because if it keeps people from moving in to your county and they are not paying taxes, it's not a good thing."
A preliminary draft of possible ordinances and regulations for wind turbines in Buchanan County has been written.
They will be discussed at a zoning and planning meeting Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. at the Buchanan County Courthouse.
Everyone associated with the discussions say there will be several opportunities for public input before any final decisions are made regarding the future of building wind turbines in Buchanan County.
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