Last month, the Lee County Board voted 18-4 against adopting a new wind energy ordinance recommended by the Lee County Zoning Board. At first glance, this would appear to show a strong consensus on the issue, until you discover that “no“ votes came from both sides of the debate.
Some board members voted “no” because they thought the proposed ordinance was too stringent. The ordinance included a setback of 1,400 feet or 3.5 times the height of the turbine, not significantly different than the existing guidelines.
To these board members I ask, what evidence do you have that this recommended setback is sufficient to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of Lee County?
Absolutely no evidence to this effect has been presented to our county officials during this review process. All the evidence demonstrates this setback is severely deficient, and adding a couple hundred feet is not going to fix the problems people are having with noise, shadow flicker, signal interference, etc.
Those thinking the ordinance was too stringent are in denial and are ignoring the evidence.
Others voted “no” because they recognized the zoning board did not quite get the job done, and their recommended ordinance needed some more work before it was ready to be adopted.
Some feel the new ordinance would be much more restrictive than the existing one. I really don’t believe this to be the case.
The shadow flicker requirements are not measurable.
The noise requirements are not any more restrictive than the existing guidelines except they specifically required noise measurements; measurements that would be completed anyway.
The decommissioning clause does not sufficiently protect the citizens of Lee County from having to pay for the dismantling and removal of the turbines.
And finally, the property value guarantee does not actually protect property values.
If you read the county code, you will find two primary functions of our zoning ordinances are to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people and preserve property values throughout the county.
Unfortunately, the zoning board’s wind energy ordinance failed miserably in this regard. The zoning board may have started with good intentions but then somehow lost their way and ultimately fell short of the finish line.
So what is next for Lee County? Will the work that has been put in over the last two years be a wasted effort? A reasonable person could not possibly conclude the 18-4 ”no” vote means that Lee County doesn’t need a more restrictive wind energy ordinance. No one has made a convincing argument to this effect.
The existing ordinance is deficient: No property value protection, no decommissioning provisions, no shadow flicker restrictions and inadequate setbacks. Unfortunately, the proposed ordinance didn’t fully address these issues.
It is time to get back to work. Find a handful of people who want to solve this problem and do it. Citizens have suggested reasonable compromises that have thus far been ignored. The ball is in your court again, Mr. Seeberg.
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