WALNUT – The village of Walnut is ready to take its proposal for regulating wind farms around the village to the public, one more time.
At Monday’s village board meeting, trustees approved some final changes to a new wind turbine ordinance, and authorized Walnut Village President Robert Brasen to contact the village’s planning commission to schedule a meeting and another public hearing.
“I think this time we have a better ordinance,” said Walnut Trustee Lee Sarver.
At the first public hearing, held Aug. 3, no one was happy with the proposed ordinance.
Walnut has been trying for months to pass an ordinance regulating wind turbines within 1.5 miles of the village’s corporate boundaries. An ordinance passed July 5 was voided because it didn’t go before the planning commission for the public hearing and consideration.
When the public hearing was held in August, about 60 people attended the three-hour meeting to express their dissatisfaction with the ordinance, and the planning commission decided to postpone any decision on wind turbines until there was more information.
Since then, the village board has held a series of special meetings to thoroughly work out all the details of a new ordinance.
“This is pretty much a three-, four-month compilation of everything we’ve gone through,” Brasen said. “We’ve dissected this thing from Page 1 down to the end.”
Brasen said the board has adjusted the main things that people have expressed concerns about, including setbacks, shadow flicker regulations, property protection and a decommissioning plan.
Brasen said the village doesn’t want to have any problems with wind developers and how they deal with those issues.
“We wanted to make sure that if there is an issue with it, we’ll know what they are going to do to resolve the problem,” he said. “What is going to be their plan for taking care of complainants and issues with the towers?”
At the last special meeting, held Sept. 29, trustees approved a number of changes to the ordinance, which were then sent to Village Attorney Rob LeSage. On Monday, Brasen went through those changes one more time, and said LeSage had agreed with about 90 percent of them.
Brasen said one of the changes LeSage didn’t like was the property value protection plan, which would guarantee property values within two miles of a turbine. Brasen said LeSage called it a “bad idea,” and it should instead be set at one mile.
The trustees disagreed, and told Brasen to keep it at two miles.
“We’re here to protect the homeowners in town,” said Trustee Lori Wilkinson.
Brasen said LeSage liked the board’s suggestion for “30 and 30.” The company would have 30 days to investigate any problem and 30 days to resolve it, giving the company a total of 60 days.
The board also discussed tower height, which was increased from a maximum of 400 feet to 450 feet. Brasen said the Big Sky wind farm has turbines 405 feet high, and insisting on 400 feet would require the company use an outdated technology.
Another change came in the area of shadow flicker. Under the ordinance, the primary residence of any non-participating landowner shall not be subject to any shadow flicker at all. Shadow flicker on other parts of the landowner’s property will be allowed, but the allowable amount was decreased from 20 to five hours per year.
In addition, the setback from another property was set at 1.5 times the height of the tower as opposed to 1.1 times the height.
Wilkinson also had concerns about broken blades being repaired.
“That big a blade, spinning that fast, needs to be replaced, not repaired,” she said.
Trustee Terry Glaudel said the village could not regulate that issue, and that the wind company would follow all regulations regarding broken blades.
A motion to proceed was passed on a 4-0 vote, which included Trustee Dennis Grobe. Trustees Duane Christensen and Deb Quinn were absent from the meeting.
No date was set for the public hearing, but Brasen said it must take place in no less than 15 days and no later than 30 days.
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