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Setback remains a sticking point

Mark Bannister of the Butterfield Wind project in southwest Ellis County proposed changes to current wind energy regulations to the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission on Wednesday night.

Bannister, who is marketing the project, asked the commission to change the setback distance of turbines, the increase in the decibel level and the decrease of the protest petition and notification areas.

“There is an opportunity for Ellis County to be a center for wind energy development, but if the zoning isn’t changed it’s going to go elsewhere,” Bannister told the board members.

Bannister presented the board members with maps showing how wind energy could develop with the 1,000-foot, 2,000-foot and 4,000-foot (10 times the tip height of a turbine) setbacks and stressed that with the current tip height ratio, Ellis County potentially could lose out on wind energy.

“As a compromise, we are suggesting a 1,500-foot setback,” Bannister said.

“That distance will provide home owners with the protection of a setback and it would allow wind development,” Bannister said.

Board member Luanne Kramer said the 4,000-foot map was misleading because in the current ordinance, individual land owners could waive the setback distance.

Bannister responded by saying that just one land owner could potentially not allow development in up to four sections on the map and that developers would not even look into possibly developing wind energy with the setback.

“They (wind developers) won’t even mess with it,” board member Dick Klaus said.

Bannister also proposed increasing the current 40-decibel limit to 65 decibels.

“With the 40-decibel ordinance, it will be impossible to meet that regulation,” Bannister said.

The commission then voted to hold a public hearing about the proposed changes and will do so at its next meeting on Jan. 25.

In other business, the commission unanimously approved two conditional-use permits to Vaiaero Wireless to erect cellular towers. A protest period will be observed until Jan. 11 and then the permits will go to the Ellis County Commission for final approval on Jan. 17.