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Commission: Setback distances for turbines likely won't change  

Setback requirements between industrial wind turbines and residences likely will not increase from the currently mandated 1,000 feet.

At Wednesday’s Joint Planning Commission meeting, a motion to double the required distance failed due to a tied vote of 4-4, with commissioner Charlie Rohr absent.

“Two thousand feet just protects all the homeowners involved,” Commissioner Bill Poland said. “It just gives them a wider bumper of protection.”

Commissioners continued to review zoning amendments submitted by the public and discussed a proposal filed by J.P. Michaud regarding wind farm regulations.

While no action taken at this point is final, commissioners reviewed the proposal one item at a time, voting to table the item for further consideration or to eliminate it from the table.

In the document, Michaud suggested setback distances of at least one-half mile, and commissioners considered 2,000 feet.

Some commissioners expressed concern this provision would reduce the number of turbines able to be located on a leased section of land.

“We’ve got to realize that when you write the regulations, you could do harm,” Chairman Gene Bittel said. “And harm being not letting someone take advantage of making county wind projects on their land. The harm we could be doing is taking potential income away from landowners.”

If, however, a landowner would wish to reduce the setback distance, such a waiver could be negotiated with the company, commissioner Barbara Anderson said.

“If you want it that way, you can have it that way,” she said. “And if you don’t, you have a say-so in the matter. I think it’s a good idea to do the 2,000 feet and let the people negotiate.”

Poland said that, while the distance would be increased, it would not be a large enough distance to disable landowners from entering lease agreements.

“I think the landowners still have the opportunity to put them on their property,” he said. “We’re not restricting them.”

When the conditional-use permit application came before county commissioners last September, the motion made by Commissioner Dennis Pfannenstiel included the condition of doubling the setback to the proposed 2,000 feet.

Other setback distances also were discussed Wednesday. Zoning commissioners agreed to consider increasing minimum distances from public roads to 1Ôªø1âÑ2 times the turbine’s tip height.

Current regulations establish this setback at one times turbine height, plus an additional 75 feet.

The same setback increase of 1Ôªø1âÑ2 times the turbine height was approved for further consideration regarding railroads, which is a provision not included in the current legislation.

In other business:

* Commissioners opted to strike a proposed revision requiring a signed statement declaring landowner responsibility if the company fails to reclaim the project site. County Counselor Dennis Davidson of Russell said such provision is made in state statute.

* A provision requiring diagrams of shadow flicker projection for a calendar year also was rejected in a 5-2 vote.

* A suggestion to include language to protect natural springs and certified public drinking sources was tabled for further consideration.

* Requirement of an erosion control plan also was tabled for further consideration. Russell said he would make contact with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

* Commissioners considered noise regulations and adopting World Health Organization standards into the regulations. This was tabled for a later date, and commissioners requested Zoning Administrator Dale Wing to discuss the possibility of a countywide noise ordinance with county commissioners.

* The issue of whether to include separate regulations for smaller hobbyist wind turbines also was discussed and tabled for further consideration.

By Kaley Lyon

Hays Daily News

17 April 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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