MARSHALL – Investors are waiting to build nine wind towers in Sodus Township in Lyon County, and they will have to wait until at least this afternoon for one key decision from the county.
The county’s planning and zoning committee continued its Wednesday night meeting to 1:30 p.m. today to consider four conditional use permit applications from the RAHN Group to build a total of nine wind towers in the Sodus Township.
The commission’s job is to make a recommendation to the Lyon County Board on whether or not to approve the CUPs. The county board meets Tuesday.
County zoning administrator John Biren said Thursday the project is a large one for the county and it’s OK to take some additional time.
“This is new to the board,” Biren said Thursday. “This is one of the first projects. It’s a large one, I think.”
The CUP applications come as the county has revamped its wind energy ordinance. The new ordinance will take effect Monday.
The request from RAHN must be considered under the old ordinance.
But RAHN’s project meets the requirements of both the old and new ordinance, Biren said.
But some issues raised and discussed at Wednesday night’s planning and zoning meeting could affect the new ordinance and RAHN’s CUP applications.
Lyon County Assistant Attorney Tricia Zimmer said while the existing ordinance has minimum requirements that must be met, the commission and the county board can demand higher standards as conditions of the CUP.
For example, while RAHN said it plans to have 1,000-foot setbacks from property lines, the county could formally require it as condition to make sure the setbacks are 1,000 feet.
County resident Scott Riddlemoser lives a little more than a mile from one of the RAHN-proposed wind towers. He’d like stricter standards in the new county wind energy ordinance and said RAHN should be required to also meet the stricter standards.
Riddlemoser said recent damage of two wind towers near Lake Wilson emphasized the need for road right-of-way setbacks that at least accommodate tower height. The damaged towers did not topple but parts did break off and fly a few hundred feet, Riddlemoser said.
The damaged towers are similar to those planned for Sodus Township, Riddlemoser said.
As the county considers the RAHN applications, it is a good time to be proactive, to set stricter standards with RAHN and make necessary changes in the new ordinance, Riddlemoser said.
RAHN officials said they already meet many of Riddlemoser’s concerns because they have exceeded standards in the existing and new county ordinances.
Suzlon has addressed the issues with the damaged towers and the equipment RAHN will use is newer and improved, RAHN officials said.
Riddlemoser gave a presentation to the commissioners during the meeting in which he said the county must make sure it considers setbacks that make sure if a wind tower falls, it won’t hit the road. He also wants stricter noise level requirements so that he can’t hear 50 decibels from his property line.
Riddlemoser also said the county needs to better consider wind wake and how wind towers built too close to other properties can prevent another private person from building his own tower because of diminished wind.
The county requires a 750-foot setback from adjoining property.
RAHN’s proposal has setbacks of 1,000 feet.
The county requires a 300-foot setback from road right-of-ways.
RAHN’s closest tower to the road is 415 feet away.
Riddlemoser said the county needs to have a stricter requirement than 750-feet setbacks from property lines and 300-feet from road right-of-ways.
A 406-foot tower such as the ones of the size installed by RAHN would fall on the road if it collapsed if placed only 300 feet from the right-of-way, Riddlemoser said.
And 750 feet is too close to neighboring property lines, Riddlemoser said.
The county’s new ordinance should better address wind wake issues with a requirement to get easements for wind from more adjoining property owners, Riddlemoser said.
Riddlemoser also said he does not believe neighboring property owners should be able to hear 50 decibels from their property lines. Riddlemoser said if he can’t hear 50 decibels from his residence, he shouldn’t have to hear in his backyard or on the property line.
The county requires that 50 decibels cannot be heard from a residence.
Charlie Daum, an analyst from RAHN, said the turbines and generators used for this project will be meet the 50-decibel level restriction at 1,000 feet which will be well away from property lines.
“We’ve gotten a lot of information tonight,” commission member and county board chairman Mark Goodenow said. “We’ve got two issues, this project and the (new) county ordinance.”
The commission must follow the existing ordinance which RAHN meets but it can set higher standards in the conditions of the CUP, Goodenow said.
“We meet and exceed the county ordinance,” said Daum. The project also meets the new ordinance, Daum said.
Daum and Blake E. Nixon, a principal with RAHN, said they’d work with the county to answer any additional questions but didn’t want to delay the project.
The commission’s continuation to today won’t delay the project, commission chairman Dick Vroman said.
The county board meets Tuesday and couldn’t make its decision on the CUP until then, Vroman said. The commission will meet before the county board meeting, Vroman said.
By Rae Kruger
Independent Staff Writer
16 March 2007
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