When the wind farm went up in Kewaunee County in 1999, neighboring Door County responded by adopting a Wind Energy Systems ordinance that required a permit for turbines taller than 100 feet.
Since then, no permits were ever pulled, and the ordinance, “hasn’t been used at all,” said Mariah Goode, Door County planning director.
When Community Wind Energy LLC incorporated with a goal of getting local wind power on the grid, the county dusted off its ordinance and learned it might be in violation of state statutes, and therefore vulnerable to lawsuits.
“We decided that we would go ahead and revise it before we got ourselves into a situation,” Goode said.
The Door County Resource Planning Committee authorized the revision in March. Those revisions will be presented at the RPC’s June 21 meeting.
The problem was that some of Door County’s regulations are stricter than state standards governing renewable energy sources – and Wisconsin statutes do not allow municipalities to impose standards that are stricter than state statutes.
For example, Goode said, “the very things that people are most concerned about are the appearance of them. And that is not considered a valid reason to regulate them. So we’ll have to pull all of that stuff out of there.”
Door County’s revision process is being guided by a model wind energy ordinance the state created several years ago.
Among some of the things that could change is the height requirement that would trigger the permit process – it’s now 100 feet and could be increased to 170 feet.
The distance between turbines and surrounding buildings may also change.
The current ordinance and its revision applies to all 14 towns in Door County, even those that don’t have county zoning. This includes the town of Clay Banks, which is considering a moratorium on wind turbines.
Goode said she’s not sure if a town-adopted moratorium would hold up, given Door County’s renewable technology authority.
“It’s a good question, if they can do that,” Goode said. “I hope they’ve checked with their attorney.”
By Deb Fitzgerald
2 June 2007
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