A federal court will hear a lawsuit 24 property owners have filed over Calumet County’s wind turbine ordinance.
The plaintiffs, who oppose the wind turbines, contend the county’s ordinance as amended in October is unconstitutional. They allege the ordinance, which requires 1,000 feet between wind turbines and homes, schools and churches but not businesses, fails to protect all property owners equally.
At the same time, they contend the 1,000-foot setback impinges on adjacent properties, constituting a “taking” of property.
Wind farm developers say the changes the plaintiffs want would thwart their plans and overstep the county’s legal authority.
A scheduling conference between the parties and U.S. District Judge William C. Griesbach is set for Jan. 19 in Green Bay.
Wes Slaymaker, an engineer for EcoEnergy LLC – one of the wind developers interested in Calumet County – said Thursday the suit hasn’t affected the company’s plans or discussions with potential site owners. It will take about two years to gather enough data to design the projects, he said.
“The suit came way before we were even proposing a specific project,” Slaymaker said. “They (the plaintiffs) don’t even know where they might be.”
In November, the property owners directed their attorney to file a lawsuit seeking an injunction on wind farm construction and to recoup their legal expenses.
Calumet County Corporation Counsel Pamela Captain said the lawsuit’s constitutional basis prompted the county to exercise its option to move the case to federal court.
Several wind farm developers are interested in putting up about 150 400-foot turbines in the county, considered one of the state’s prime locations for wind energy.
Wind speeds in the corridor from Fond du Lac northeast through Door County average 13 to 14 mph at a height of 110 feet, the best in the state.
Landowners stand to earn thousands of dollars for renting their land for turbine sites, while the wind farms could mean millions to local governments. The proposed wind farms each would generate enough electricity to serve about 25,000 homes.
At hearings this fall, dozens of residents professed worries that the huge windmills will cause epileptic seizures, sleep deprivation, diminished property values and will interfere with aircraft navigation, especially medical helicopters.
Wind developers dismissed most of those concerns as red herrings.
By Susan Squires
Post-Crescent staff writer
920-993-1000, ext. 368, or ssquires@ postcrescent.com
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