December 8, 2011

Regulating the wind in Walnut

By Barb Kromphardt, Bureau County Republican, 7 December 2011

WALNUT – The Walnut Planning Commission will decide tonight, Thursday, whether to give its seal of approval on the village’s proposed ordinance to regulate wind turbines outside the village limits.

At Monday’s village board meeting, Village Clerk Nicole Wierzbicki said she had just received the latest copy of the ordinance from village attorney Rob LeSage.

That ordinance is the latest step in the village’s efforts to control the wind turbines proposed for the area. After months of special meetings, the board finally hammered out a new ordinance, which went before the planning commission Nov. 1.

At that meeting, Walnut Village President Robert Brasen read through the 26-page proposed ordinance, highlighting the changes, but the planning commissioners had several suggestions of their own.

Brasen said the ordinance contained all of the changes in which the planning commission had asked.

The village’s proposed ordinance would prohibit anything within one mile of the village limits and required approval for anything within the one to 1.5 mile range.

Other rules were set on a wide array of topics, including a conditional use permit from the village, ways to address complaints, and a property value protection plan.

Changes added by the planning commission included prohibitions against blade glint, evidence that each property owner was provided with a copy of the ordinance, and no approval unless the board was satisfied all expenses would be covered. The commissioners also wanted the exact location of each turbine listed on the application, not the planned location.

Brasen said the biggest change dealt with the proposed setback. The village board had settled on a one-half mile setback, but the planning commission insisted on changing it to 1.25 miles.

More changes included the guarantee to restore all roads be extended to one year instead of six months. Brasen said several commissioners said they wanted to go through a full freeze/thaw cycle before signing off on the roads.

The new ordinance also allowed for turbines to be turned off immediately instead of waiting for 30 days if there was a noise problem. In addition, no shadow flicker would be allowed on the principal living structure of a non-participating landowner, and only five hours per year are allowed on the non-participating landowners property.

Brasen said other changes required a review of the financial assurance for decommissioning on an annual basis. He said the concern was there could be enough money now, but not enough in 10 years.

The commissioners had wanted something else, as well. Brasen said they wanted a consumption production meter on each turbine, showing how much energy the turbine uses compared to how much it creates.

“That’s really not our business,” Trustee Terry Glaudel said.

Brasen said the commissioners would review the changes, and then the ordinance would be brought to the board for final action on Dec. 19. Brasen said the village board can approve the ordinance without the commission’s approval, but it would take a 75 percent vote instead of the usual majority.

After the discussion, Trustee Lee Sarver sat back in his chair and expressed one final thought on the subject.

“It’s been a lot of work for everybody, but I truly believe in my own mind the (wind turbine) technology, the way it goes, will be obsolete in 10 years,” he said.

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