Sussex County’s regulations on residential wind turbines – contradicted, in part, by new state law – are set to be updated. The draft of a new ordinance bringing the county’s regulations in line with state law is scheduled for county council’s Tuesday, Feb. 15 agenda.
State law now prohibits public hearings on placing wind turbines, which in Sussex County was needed to allow placement of turbines on parcels of more than 5 acres. Before the new state law, the county board of adjustment could consider wind turbine applications on any size parcel as special-use exceptions, which required a public hearing.
Councilman George Cole, R-Ocean View, wanted to make sure the ordinance addressed minimum lot size and inspections, suggesting the minimum size should be 1 acre.
County Attorney J. Everett Moore said legal staff would consider his requests, but county regulations can’t be more restrictive than state law.
County land-use consultant Paul Driscoll recommended the county modify its current code by eliminating the 5-acre minimum lot size; eliminating the need for a special-use exception for turbines less than 100-feet high; eliminating a requirement that the property must be farmland; establishing a maximum of one wind turbine per lot in most districts; and incorporating state standards into a county ordinance.
Under state law, residential wind turbines must be set back from neighboring property lines as far as the turbine is tall. In other words, a 50-foot wind turbine would require setbacks of at least 50 feet on all sides.
A sound restriction requires noise cannot exceed 5 decibels above the existing noise level of the surrounding area and limits noise to a maximum of 60 decibels. In addition, wiring must be placed underground.
Council has also expressed concern with a provision in state law that does not allow homeowners associations to regulate wind turbines within their own communities.
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