A common refrain at a public hearing before the Calumet County Planning, Zoning and Farmland Preservation Committee March 2 on modifying Calumet County’s Chapter 79 draft code (ordinance) (Wind Energy Facilities) was to change the setback to 1,800 feet from the property line.
Ten people addressed the Committee with concerns about the setback requirement for commercial wind turbines and related issues such as depreciation of land values and noise. Another individual spoke to the Committee about respecting the rights of others to have wind turbines on their properties and the need for renewable energy sources.
In subsequent committee action a motion by Committee member Ralph Prescott and seconded by member Ron Gruett amended Table 1 in the draft code striking a setback from a nonparticipating residence, and changing the setback from a nonparticipating property line to a setback of 1800 feet from the property line. The motion was unanimously approved.
Other action approved by the Committee was to amend the draft code by strking any reference to Public Service Commission (PSC) rule 128 and to amend the draft code by reinserting the sound standards from the previous Chapter 79.
The Committee agreed to forward the amended draft code to the Calumet County Board for its approval.
Deemed ultra vires
At the onset of the meeting Julie Heuvelman, director of the Planning, Zoning and Land Information Department, explained that the ordinance Chapter 79 was in the Calumet County Code of Ordinances but based on a court decision it was deemed ultra vires (unauthorized). Hence it was removed from the Calumet Code of Ordinances. She pointed out that the draft ordinance before the Committee is a redraft of Chapter 79, crafted as a result of the moratorium adopted in fall to make the code compliant with Public Service Commission (PSC) 128 (uniform construction and setback standards for turbines), but action taken at the state level March 1 suspended the rules on wind turbine siting standards.
Residents speak out
During the public hearing portion of the meeting Mike Schmitz of Brothertown told the Committee in 2007 a wind company proposed 4×4 square miles hosting 52 wind turbines affecting 193 residences. “Based on three persons per residence, 580 people would have had their quality of life taken from them,” he said. If a 1,800 setback from the property line would have been in place only 32 people would have been affected.
Dan Hedrich of Chilton said the two biggest fears about wind turbines are sound and shadow flicker. According to the World Health Organization 35 decibels should be the limit for sleeping. According to calculations reached by a physics teacher, sound decibels emitted on average from a wind turbine range from 102-108. The question he asked is, “How far does one have to be from a turbine to meet the state’s requirement of 50 decibels?” Hedrich said the proposed 1,800 feet is not a random number but is based on these calculations.
Charles Schneider of Brothertown said the complaint process gives way too much latitude to the wind turbine companies. Words like “good faith” or “reasonable effort” should be removed from the rules.
The suspension of PSC 128 was based on health, safety and general welfare concerns, said Herb Selk of Brothertown. He said it was described by the state legislature as capricious and placing a great hardship on people, The Legislature realizes that the rules promulgated by the PSC were done primarily with the assistance of the wind companies and public documents had no effect on the rules as they should have. The vote by the legislature was not even close which body ordered it be looked at closely and redone, Selk said.
Gene Sinner of the town of Stockbridge reinforced Selk’s position that the rules written by the PSC were influenced by the wind energy companies and skewered in their favor and not necessarily favoring property owners, and health and safety issues. He added that the current setback rule stifles development, and diminishes property values and affects property rights.
Property rights need to be protected said DuWayne Klessig who argued that up to 40 percent of a person’s property values are affected. People can’t sell their homes because buyers know of proposed wind turbines, he said.
George Geiser of the town of Chilton said he understands a lot of what has been said but caution should be observed because people have rights to do what they want to do with their property. We all deal with noise in our lives and turbines are just one of hem. Nobody wants roads and power lines because things like that interrupt their lifestyle. We must think about the future, not only for us but for our children, and grandchildren.
Geiser cited the danger of nuclear power waste (a melt-down some day), global warming (CO 2), the bad effects from the use of coal, and the depletion of oil. “We have to do something; there has to be some give and take,” he said.
Members of he Planning, Zoning and Farmland Preservation Committee are Alice Connors, chairperson; Duaine Stillman, vice chairman; Ralph Prescott, Peter Dorn, Mike Hofberger, Ronald Gruett and Joel Taylor. Stillman was absent excused.
Calumet County Corporation Counsel Dawn N. Klockow offered clarifying remarks.
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