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Bureau County strengthens regulations for wind farms

In an effort to better protect Bureau County citizens, Bureau County Board is tightening regulations on wind farms.

The board on Tuesday passed a text amendment to the county zoning ordinance regarding regulations of wind power facilities. Among the updates, the ordinance now includes greater setbacks and requires more pre- and post-construction studies of factors such as shadow flicker and noise.

The setback for a wind turbine generator or meteorological tower from a residence increased from 750 feet to 1,400 feet or 3.2 times the height of the tower and blade, whichever is greater.

The setback for other structures actually decreased from 1.25 times the height of the tower and blade to 1.1 times. This change was made because some residents had concerns that the original setback wouldn’t allow them to build a barn or outbuilding on their property if their neighbor had a nearby wind turbine, said zoning director Kris Donarski.

Several new setbacks were added, Donarski continued, including 1.5 miles from an incorporated community and 2,640 feet from an unincorporated platted community or platted rural subdivision.

The ordinance now includes new or expanded provisions requiring the wind farm to pay for third party qualified professionals to conduct studies before and after construction analyzing factors such as noise, television interference and shadow flicker on nearby properties.

“They do a preliminary (study) before it’s built and they do another one after it’s built to verify,” Donarski said.
The preliminary studies must be submitted with the application for conditional use for each turbine or tower.

“The citizens will have the right to look at that study before it comes before the county board for a vote,” Donarski said.

If the post-construction studies are unsatisfactory and exceed levels of noise, interference or shadow flicker projected in the preliminary study, the county can begin a procedure to revoke the conditional use permit, state’s attorney Pat Herrmann said.

In other business Tuesday:

-The board decided not to take action on a proposal for municipal aggregation from Progressive Energy Group. The proposal would have allowed Bureau County residents and small businesses in unincorporated areas to combine their electric usage to save money but would have required a binding referendum and contracts without providing any financial benefit to the county government.

-The ESDA and Zoning Committee recommended the board pursue an intergovernmental agreement with the Bureau County Emergency Telephone System Board to utilize their conference room as the county’s emergency operations center during disaster and emergency incidents.

-The Health Department announced they are now offering shingles vaccines for adults 50 years and older with a doctor’s order. The dental clinic is also now accepting new adult patients, who must meet low income requirements.

-The board approved the appointments of Jon Pickering and Joe Kunkel to the Bureau County Regional Planning Commission, Paul Scoma to the Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals and Perry Noble as an alternate member of the Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals.