OREGON – Will the government seek to muffle farm noise? Some say it could happen.
An agricultural leader contends an Ogle County proposal for noise restrictions on wind turbines could end up being used against farms.
Brian Duncan, Ogle County Farm Bureau president, opposes a proposed standard that would bar wind turbines from creating noise more than 5 decibels above background noise.
He said it could be used to prohibit farm activity such as grain drying.
“The courts have ruled you can’t govern one use without using the same standard for other uses. Otherwise, it’s discriminatory,” he said.
In Lee County, some attending public meetings asked the Zoning Board of Appeals to recommend a similar 5-decibel standard. The wind energy industry opposed it. The board voted 4-1 against any decibel limits, with members saying they wanted flexibility.
The zoning board’s recommendations on wind energy rules will go to the full Lee County Board, probably in the next couple of months.
Ogle County’s Zoning Board of Appeals also excluded a decibel standard. Its proposed wind energy ordinance went to the County Board’s Planning and Zoning Committee.
The committee inserted the decibel standard.
Ogle County Board member Bill Welty, a committee member, disagreed with arguments that the noise standard could be used against farmers.
“Farm [machines] don’t run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” he said. “The tractors in the spring and the combines in the fall are completely different from a permanent sound from a wind farm.”
As for the decibel standard, Welty said the Farm Bureau is trying “to bring something out that would be of concern to farmers that is probably not legally applicable.”
Besides, he said, state noise regulations exempt farm equipment.
Duncan said the County Board committee should have had an up-or-down vote on the Zoning Board’s proposal, not made changes to it. The committee didn’t hear the sworn testimony that took place during Zoning Board meetings and based its decisions on opinions, he said.
“We don’t think that committee has authority. It was basically Mr. Welty rigging the process,” he said. “It’s never been done that way before.”
The proposed ordinance also includes a provision requiring the distance between a turbine and a house be 1,640 feet or 3.5 times the height of the turbine, whichever is greater.
Ogle County didn’t have a setback distance before. Instead, officials said, the county deals with the issue on a case-by-case basis.
Last month, the Lee County Zoning Board voted for a setback of 1,400 feet or 3.5 times the turbine’s height, whichever is greater. Its current distance is 1,400 feet, without any provisions for the height.
Representatives of Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power opposed the requirement of 3.5 times the turbine’s height, saying it would discourage wind energy development. The company is planning a wind farm for Lee, Whiteside and Bureau counties.
The Ogle County Board meets at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Ogle County Courthouse, 105 S. Fifth St., in Oregon.
The board is expected to vote on a proposed wind energy ordinance.
For an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings or more information, go to www.oglecounty.org or call 815-732-1110.
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