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Turbines lawsuit out in the wind;Calumet Board gives OK to seek farm construction ban

The Calumet County Board was sandwiched Friday between potential lawsuits over its wind energy ordinance.

One one side is a group of property owners who want stricter regulations on the distance between electricity-producing wind turbines and property lines. On the other are wind farm developers who say the restrictions opponents want would thwart their plans and overstep the county’s legal authority.

The board left the ordinance alone, and according Steven Frassetto, the property owners’ attorney, they have directed him to file suit seeking an injunction on wind farm construction and to recoup their legal expenses.

Three wind farm developers are courting landowners in Calumet County, considered one of the state’s prime locations for wind energy. The corridor from Fond du Lac northeast through Door County has an average annual wind speed of 13 to 14 mph at a height of 110 feet, the best in the state.

Landowners ““ most of them farmers – stand to earn thousands of dollars from renting their land for turbine sites, while the wind farms could mean millions to local governments.

The proposed wind farms would each generate enough electricity to serve about 25,000 homes.

The turbines would stand at least 400 feet, taller than a 30-story building.

The ordinance, which the county adopted in October, requires 1,000 feet between large turbines and residences, libraries, schools, hospitals and churches.

Otherwise, a turbine need only be a distance of 1.1 times its height from the nearest property line.

The probable plaintiffs wanted the setbacks increased to 1,000 feet across the board.

Developers said such a wide berth would eliminate too many sites to make their projects viable.

“Any decision to increase the setbacks would be considered a violation of state law and would not be upheld,” engineer David Blecker warned the County Board on Friday. Blecker works for Midwest Wind Energy, one of the interested developers.

Meanwhile, Frassetto’s clients allege the county’s ordinance does not provide their property the same protection it offers schools, churches, hospitals and similar properties, and therefore is unconstitutional.

By Susan Squires
Post-Crescent staff writer
Susan Squires can be reached at 920-993-1000, ext. 368, or at ssquires@postcrescent.com.