Focused on protecting their health and safety, several town of Clay Banks residents advocate a strong municipal wind control ordinance that severely limits commercial wind turbine development.
But the town could go to court if residents, rather than developers, challenge the proposal, said John Hippensteel, a technical adviser for a local developer, Community Wind Energy LLC, when he spoke Saturday at a public hearing attended by about 40 people.
After the Calumet County town of Stockbridge passed a restrictive wind ordinance, some farm operators successfully made claims against the town for lost revenue, said Hippensteel, 1015 County Highway U.
Claims also were filed against town board members by people claiming their rights were violated.
“I’ve always given the town of Clay Banks credit for being extremely fiscally responsible,” Hippensteel said. “But I don’t think that we’re spending our tax money very efficiently with this particular ordinance.”
Strict setbacks, designed to curtail the potential health impacts of noise from larger commercial wind turbines, were the centerpiece of discussion at the orderly three-hour hearing before the Clay Banks Wind Energy Committee.
Legal issues and spillover impact on farms and other businesses also were addressed.
The Clay Banks Wind Energy Committee spent about 10 months researching the proposal, which was reviewed by Glenn Stoddard, an Eau Claire attorney who specializes in wind-related issues.
After the hearing, County Board Supervisor Bob Ryan said various aspects of the Clay Banks’ proposal could set it up for challenges in court.
But several residents, including Tom Drager, 1379 County Highway U, said the proposal was written “to the right point, to protect health and safety, to provide a minimum setback from residences and minimum standards to do exactly what it should.”
Mary and Ken Lehman, 250 Lucerne Drive, Forestville, who own property in the town, said they supported the committee’s work on a tough proposal that addresses the issue before wind developers get involved.
“If turbines can’t be put up here, maybe this isn’t the place to put them up,” Ken Lehman said. “I’ve heard bullying phrases like ‘I’m a lawyer’ or ‘I’m in the wind industry.’ I hope you’re not going to be threatened by wind developers.”
A year ago, CWE filed for a permit with the Federal Aviation Administration to build three turbines as the first step in a feasibility study.
A month later, the town board established a six-member panel to begin research for a municipal ordinance to regulate commercial wind turbines.
At the same time, the Door County’s Resource Planning Committee was revising the county wind energy ordinance. It was finalized in January by the county board of supervisors.
Clay Banks Town Chairman Mike Johnson, who heads the town Wind Energy Committee, questioned the effectiveness of the county ordinance proposal, as well as Ryan’s support for it.
Ryan, a member of the RPC, voiced his concerns to the committee in the past year when he and members of CWE attended meetings.
“My concern is there appears to be a bias of most of the committee members against wind,” Ryan said. “As a result, we see an ordinance that is legally vulnerable.”
Steve Hanson, Algoma, said the committee failed to get input from farm operators and property owners living near turbines in Kewaunee County. Hanson’s family’s property was one of the proposed sites for the CWE turbines.
Guy Fortin, a town of Egg Harbor resident representing CWE, responded to a series of setbacks in the proposal for large commercial wind turbines, including a half-mile from homes and at least one mile from parks and recreational properties.
“Simply put, the half-mile setback from residences would completely eliminate commercial wind turbines,” Fortin said.
Even with no residential setbacks, though, wind turbines would be prohibited because of other restrictions, including 1,000-foot setbacks from roads, wetlands, power lines and property lines.
Finally, shadows caused by wind turbines would not be able to fall on schools, hospitals, parks, residential neighborhoods, child care centers, places of worship or elder care facilities or within 100 feet of a residence.
Developers also must obtain a written non-development agreement from adjacent property owners that as neighbors can not install turbines within setback areas.
In addition, to county, state and federal requirements, property owners must file about 22 reports with the town, including plans, tests, easements, signed statements, timelines, agreements and notifications.
“I believe the ordinance is illegal under state law for several reasons,” Fortin said.
The Clay Banks Wind Energy Committee at its next meeting scheduled for Saturday, May 3, could recommend the proposal to the town board. The meeting begins at 8 a.m. at the town hall.
By Kurt Rentmeester
April 9, 2008
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