TOWN OF MORRISON – Last week’s public hearing on the town’s proposed ordinance to regulate wind energy systems in the town went more smoothly than some observers expected.
Town Chairman Todd Christensen explained that municipalities can only impose regulations directly related to public safety or health, so that limited the scope of the ordinance.
Prior to the Dec. 10 hearing, the town sought the opinion of John St. Peter, a Fond du Lac attorney who is familiar with local regulation of wind farms.
He reviewed the draft ordinance and made several suggestions, all of which were adopted by the town board.
A few comments were received during the hearing, including a written comment from former town supervisor Bruce Krahn.
Krahn said he was concerned about a conflict of interest, since the ordinance was drafted by the Plan Commission. As many as four of its seven members may be in negotiations with Invenergy to locate a wind tower on their property.
Krahn said he would like an unbiased committee to review the ordinance before it went to the town board.
Most of the questions raised during the hearing were answered:
# Have wind towers tipped over or collapsed? Invenergy representative Bill Blackmore said one did, in Oklahoma, when hit by a tornado.
# Can the spinning blades of a windmill cause problems for some victims of epilepsy? Blackmore said the speed of the blades turning is not fast enough to trigger photosensitive seizures.
# What if a wind tower fell onto another person’s property? Town zoning administrator Joy Koomen said the ordinance requires setbacks that would prevent this.
# Can windmills be erected anywhere in the town? Koomen said the large wind turbines can be erected only on land zoned Agriculture 1 or Agriculture 2.
# Could the maximum noise level of 50 decibels be lowered? Blackmore said 50 decibels is the volume of casual conversation and that if the same noise restrictions were applied to farmers, they would be out of business.
Blackmore told the board that he agreed with most of the revisions made by St. Peter and said, “we are not uncomfortable with this ordinance.”
The board tabled any action to adopt the ordinance to give members time to review St. Peter’s suggestions. However, if action on the ordinance is not taken within 30 days, another public hearing must be held prior to the board voting on it.
By Ed Byrne
21 December 2007