TOWN OF WRIGHTSTOWN – The Town Board on Monday approved an ordinance that will regulate wind farms.
The ordinance includes two provisions that Forward Energy representative Bill Blackmore opposed during the public hearing that preceded the board’s 3-0 vote.
Both have to do with the decommissioning or abandonment of a wind energy project in the future.
One provision requires the owner of the large windmills to not only remove the monopole structures, but to also remove the top eight feet of the concrete foundation buried in the ground.
Blackmore said the “industry standard” was removing only the top four feet of a concrete foundation for the towers and leaving the rest of the concrete buried under the soil. He objected to any requirement for demolishing and removing anything deeper than four feet.
“That would be financially prohibitive,” Blackmore said. “It would be a killer.”
Town supervisors were not swayed by that.
“I think they should be completely removed,” town Chairman Bill Verbeten said. “I don’t think four feet is close to being enough.”
“This is considered to be an unacceptable condition,” Blackmore said.
Verbeten said he couldn’t believe that. The board originally toyed with requiring that the top 12 feet of the foundation be removed, before settling on the eight-foot figure.
The Town Board also kept a provision requiring that the owner of any large wind turbine structure post bond or cash in escrow sufficient to allow the town to remove the windmills and their foundations if the owner abandons them or goes out of business.
Instead, Blackmore wanted the town to require only a letter of credit indicating his company had the financial resources to remove the wind towers and foundation.
“We’ve gotten burned by that before,” Verbeten said, citing the case of a road construction project in which the town’s taxpayers had to pay for a road after the developer defaulted on the project and the letter of credit turned out to be meaningless.
“We’ve gotten burned by this before,” Verbeten said. “We’ve had it happen to us. We’re experts and we are not going to get burned again.”
As adopted, the ordinance requires wind energy companies to get one conditional use permit for the entire project, but they must also apply for a building permit for each windmill tower.
The ordinance also requires setbacks from roads, schools and other occupied buildings equal to 110 percent of the maximum height of the tower.
Blackmore said the towers would be about 390 feet tall.
It also restricts towers to a wind energy facility district that is roughly the eastern half of the town, beginning on the west side at the top of the ledge formed by the Niagara escarpment, then running east to the town border with the Morrison at Brown County W and Holly-Mor Road.
The north and south boundaries of the wind energy facility district are Shirley Road and Mill Road.
The wind energy ordinance was developed by the Town of Wrightstown Planning Commission, which used a model ordinance proposed by the state of Wisconsin, an ordinance adopted by Dodge County and a draft ordinance being developed by Rockland as resources.
Blackmore said Forward Energy hopes to build 10 to 15 windmills in the town of Wrightstown and has already agreed to leases with seven or eight property owners.
Blackmore said Forward Energy also hopes to build windmills in the towns of Holland, Morrison, Rockland and Glenmore.
— Ed Byrne is editor of the Wrightstown Post-Gazette.
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