Regulations over wind generation and Otoe County’s future landscape were topics of a public hearing held Tuesday at the county board meeting.
At the hearing, commissioners were asked to consider whether the proposed regulations would stifle residential development and the use of wind energy in the county.
Neil Stedman of Burr said noise and shadow flicker associated with wind generators will stifle residential development.
He asked commissioners to consider whether they wanted a future of homes or wind turbines.
“What do you really want long term?” he asked. “What do we want rural Otoe County to look like? Do we want it to be a commercial site with windmills out there or a place for residences?”
When Zoning Administrator Dave Schmitz brought a draft of the wind generation ordinance to the county board in 2009, Stedman said a proposal to build a wind farm near the Burr area would reduce the quality of life for residents.
Schmitz said Tuesday the quarter-mile setback remains in the current proposal.
Schmitz said the setback protects neighbors from the windmill’s “swoosh” noise, but a shadow flicker effect could annually occur a half mile away.
The ordinance would limit shadow flicker to 30 hours a year and limit sound to 50 decibels.
Otoe County Attorney David Partsch said a neighbor with a complaint could submit it in writing to the owner of the wind turbine and the county board.
“The county board would have the right to say it is acting outside the scope of its permit and shut it down,” Partsch said.
Schmitz said if setbacks were set at a half mile, it would probably make it impossible for a large wind farm to come to Otoe County.
At a quarter mile, he said, it would be possible.
County Commissioner Tim Nelsen said he is concerned that the regulations would make a large wind farm so difficult to build and operate that companies would stay away.
He said he is not aware of wind farms being built in any of the 10 Nebraska counties that have adopted similar regulations.
Nelsen had earlier asked Schmitz to survey wind turbine companies for their reaction to the proposed regulations.
Schmitz said Tuesday he did not receive a response to indicate that the regulations would eliminate the county from consideration.
“The developers really didn’t have a problem. It tells me they are not terribly concerned about it,” he said. Nelsen said the regulations are also onerous even for private landowners who want a single tower to generate their own wind power.
He said it requires the individual to comply with the American Wind Energy Systems standards, requires them to get the permission of the public utility company and charges a fee.
“I want to encourage people to build in Otoe County. I have every respect for the people worried about noise and flickering and the need for regulations, but we’re talking about a regulatory system here to encourage people not to build,” he said.
“I need to be convinced a little bit because I feel we are stifling economic development,” he said.
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