The county commissioners and the county’s zoning board are considering zoning regulations to govern the installation of wind generation systems. After a public hearing in July, the zoning board recommended approving the regulations to the commissioners. Now the commissioners must schedule their own public hearing on the issue. They discussed the issue briefly at their meeting Friday.
Deputy county attorney Joe Stecher explained some of Nebraska’s wind regulation legislation to the commissioners, pointing out that state law currently forbids changing the valuation classification for land connected to wind generation. Instead, the towers are taxed with a “nameplate tax” and the land’s property tax remains the same – i.e. agricultural land.
Nebraska is behind other states in the production of wind energy, Stecher said, mainly because it is a public power state. Public power must be produced at the lowest cost possible and historically that has been coal and nuclear energy, he said. Wind generation and the zoning issues surrounding it are complicated, he added.
“The opinions on it run the scope.”
Regardless of whether it’s a good idea or bad idea to produce wind energy, the county must address the issue in its regulations, said commissioner Greg Asa.
Commissioner Josh Skavdahl agreed.
“We just need to protect the interests of the people of Sioux County.”
Sioux County’s draft regulations address meteorological towers, as well as small and commercial wind energy systems. The regulations were modeled after those already adopted in other counties, though some changes were made to better reflect the local situation, Stecher said.
The rules, if adopted, will provide for small wind energy systems up to 80 feet in height on parcels of one-half to one acre in size. Properties greater than one acre would be required to follow FAA rules regarding tower height and lighting. Noise is also limited to 30 dBA in the regulations, as measured at the closest neighboring inhabited dwelling.
Commercial systems would also have to comply with the noise limitation as well as other restrictions, including an agreement to restore roads and bridges to their pre-construction condition. Both small and commercial systems will be established as a conditional use, for which a permit would be required.