In the coming months, Sawyer County will be adopting a new wind ordinance governing all single wind turbines and larger wind farms. At its monthly meeting last Friday, the zoning committee held a discussion on the amendments and changes to the initial proposed ordinance that was introduced last year.
On Jan. 22, county zoning held a public information meeting about the proposed ordinance where administrators gathered feedback from the public as to what to amend or eliminate altogether. Based on this meeting, zoning administrator Bill Christman distributed a revised copy of the proposed wind ordinance this month and sought questions from the committee as a whole at Friday’s meeting.
“It was a time when we went to the public and asked “˜what do you think about this?'” said Christman. “Out of that there were some recommended changes to the ordinance. That is not to say these changes will be what is ultimately approved. We will need another public hearing to get the towns’ input.”
Phil Nies, Town of Bass Lake supervisor, spoke in agreement with the theory of the ordinance, though he questioned many of the specifics saying that the county should consult with a technical expert at yet another public hearing before the final ordinance is passed.
“The reason I showed up to the public meeting, was because I didn’t think the ordinance was strict enough,” Nies said. “Of the people that were there, two were promoters (builders) of wind turbines and they acted as our technical source.”
Nies also asserted that “to be against renewable energy, is like being against God, mother and apple pie.”
According to Nies, he questioned whether wind farms were a viable source of energy within Sawyer County.
“We need to get somebody who is unbiased to provide information for us,” Nies continued. “There are so many items within the ordinance that need to be corrected, we need to consult with an unbiased, technical person.”
Nies went on to say that when comprehensive plans were being developed by Bass Lake, Sand Lake and other townships, surveys were sent out. Of those, 94 percent of the responses said the most important thing to preserve was the “atmosphere” of the area.
“I think we need to make sure that’s incorporated in here (the ordinance),” Nies commented.
Nies was also concerned about the visual impairment of the wind turbines, claiming that they will be seen not only from land but also from the lakes.
“I would urge that you folks (the zoning committee) iron this thing out before we go to public hearing again,” Nies added. “I just don’t think it’s a good enough product at present.”
The committee resolved to find a technical expert to consult before a public hearing is set.
“What also came out of the meeting was to see what other counties are doing,” Christman said. So included with the revised copy of the ordinance, Christman distributed information as to how other areas are dealing with noise (or decibel) levels, specifically, of wind turbines.
In consulting with a zoning official in another county, Christman reported, that official questioned how wind energy would be a benefit to Sawyer County and instead commented that solar energy might be a more appropriate renewable energy.
“Either way, we still will need an ordinance that addresses wind energy,” Christman concluded.
Nies furthered his previous statements, claiming that once the ordinance is in place, as it currently stands, then the zoning committee cannot refuse a permit for a wind turbine based on aesthetics.
“You can’t refuse a (wind turbine) permit because you’re against the looks of it,” Nies said.
A public hearing date for the proposed wind ordinance will be set at the zoning committee meeting next month.
By Will LaBreche
Sawyer County Record
22 February 2007
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