Members of the Navajo County Board of Supervisors offered their input Tuesday on a draft ordinance being crafted to address renewable energy projects.
Several changes have been made to the draft ordinance, and the supervisors suggested a few others. Among the major changes being considered are moving the setbacks for wind turbines from a quarter-mile from the project boundary to a half- mile from the nearest residence; measuring sound levels at the exterior of existing residences within three-quarters of a mile of a turbine rather than measuring them at the project boundary; and setting the maximum allowable noise level at 45 decibels.
Other proposed changes include basing setbacks on property sizes and ownership in cases where there are no residences within a half-mile. For example, if the property adjacent to the project is privately owned and not in an industrial zone, turbines must be a half-mile from the project boundary if a neighboring parcel is 2.5 acres or smaller, a quarter- mile from the boundary if the neighboring parcel is 2.51 to 19.9 acres, 1,000 feet from the boundary if the neighboring parcel is 10 to 39.9 acres, and 750 feet or 150 percent of the turbine height, whichever is greater, if the parcel is 40 acres or larger.
In cases of neighboring properties that are publicly owned or zoned industrial, the setback will be 110 percent of the height of the turbine. The draft ordinance still includes a provision that a property owner may waive the setback requirements.
Another provision that outlines a setback of one mile from municipal boundaries is likely to be removed at the suggestion of Supervisor David Tenney. He explained that he does not believe there is a good reason to treat municipalities differently than other property owners. Planning and Zoning Director Greg Loper noted that he was not opposed to removing the provision.
The supervisors also suggested that the ordinance be changed to focus solely on wind energy, and that ordinance could then later become part of a larger alternative energy ordinance. Supervisor Jerry Brownlow noted that the vast majority of the discussion and focus of the ordinance has been on wind power.
Tenney asked planning and zoning staff to research wind energy ordinances in other counties to determine if the proposed Navajo County ordinance is similar. He explained that although a one-half mile setback from residences seems like a suitable balance between the rights of property owners, he would like to know whether that distance is much greater or much less than setbacks outlined in similar ordinances.
Brownlow noted that he is not convinced that a half- mile is enough, but would also like to see more information on setbacks and how they are determined.
“What we’re doing here will be affecting Navajo County long after we’re gone, and we need to take our time and do it right,” Brownlow said.
The board did not take any action, since the ordinance is not yet ready for a final decision.
Loper noted that staff members are doing some additional research, will make some changes to the draft and bring more information back to the board.
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