The Emmet County Board of Supervisors last week decided not to waive two more readings of the county’s new ordinance that would regulate wind turbines in the county to allow more public comment.
That comment came Tuesday.
“It looks like it will regulate what we need to regulate but not so crazy that it boxes us out of any development,” said supervisor Alan Madden, noting that he had contacted wind industry officials for their comment. It was Madden who had asked for more time for the public to weigh in on the proposed ordinance.
“Face value, it looks pretty good to me,” agreed supervisor John Martyr.
The only concern by a supervisor came from Tim Schumacher who suggested that Emmet County’s ordinance come into line with Dickinson County setbacks. The proposed Emmet County ordinance calls for a 1,250-foot setback from any residential-zoned district compared to 1,200 feet for Dickinson County. Schumacher asked Al Blum, chairman of NorthStar Wind, if the 50-foot difference would impact any decision to site turbines in the county.
Blum said the 50 feet would not make a difference – however, a 2,000-foot setback would. “The 1,250 certainly isn’t an issue for us,” Blum said.
Schumacher said he would contact Steve Hallgren of Northwest Iowa Planning & Development, who authored the ordinance, regarding the difference, saying he would like to see it the same for both counties.
Kenny DeVore, rural Terril, had concerns about the size of future turbines.
“I don’t know what’s going to be here in the next 60 years,” DeVore said. “Why the difference (between turbines next to residential zones areas and other zoning districts),” DeVore asked. “Why not limit it in the country too.”
According to the ordinance:
“Commercial wind energy devices shall not be permitted within any defined residential zoned district. Commercial wind energy devices shall be limited to a total height of 250 feet within 1,250 feet of any residential zoned district. No height limitations shall apply in all other zoning districts, except that no wind energy device, meteorological tower or other associated structures shall be permitted to extend into approach zones, clear zones or other restricted air space required for the protection of any airport.”
DeVore said setbacks should be based on rotor diameter, which Blum said would be 275 feet on a 1.6-megawatt turbine, the smallest in the NorthStar project. DeVore said rural setbacks should be from nonparticipating property lines – persons not leasing ground for turbines.
Madden said DeVore’s call for a 1,250-foot setback would leave room for only six windmills in the county – preempting them from 40-acre tracts. He said the setback of 110 percent of height as provided in the ordinance would be more appropriate.
“My concern is boxing people in for future development,” said DeVore, also expressing safety concerns.
“I think the safety factor is taken care of,” said Madden.
County attorney Doug Hansen said the ordinance could be later amended if necessary to address concerns such as DeVore’s. “So you’re not locked into this for 60 years,” Hansen said to DeVore.
DeVore also asked about decommissioning nonfunctioning turbines.
Board chair Bev Juhl said owners have two years to remove turbines.
“What if this company takes bankruptcy,” said DeVore.
Blum said permit applicants must file a decommissioning plan.
“I know the leases kind of address that,” Hansen said of landowner leases for turbines.
Madden noted 15-20 turbines had been taken down in the Alta project, “And they farm right over it.”
Blum also addressed DeVore’s concerns about ice throw, saying turbines are stopped as soon as ice forms.
“I think this is going to be the most important issue you people decide for a long time to come,” Devore said. “Am I the only one who finds it disturbing to having the wind industry help write this ordinance?”
DeVore asked that Roger Mckeown of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation look at the ordinance.
After Hansen said he wouldn’t mind having another attorney look at the ordinance provisions, the board approved the second reading.
The board will hold the third reading at its Oct. 11 meeting.