A proposed wind farm that would occupy a portion of northern Gage County prompted the County Board of Supervisors to examine the setback requirements for such proposals during Wednesday’s meeting.
Volkswind USA announced plans for a wind farm that would be primarily in Lancaster County last September, though it would also occupy around 4,000 acres in Gage County.
County Board Chairman Myron Dorn said the company’s permit is no longer active in Gage County and he’s unsure where the project stands, but the proposal reignited discussions about setback requirements.
“We’ve had the discussion several times, but we’ve never done anything,” Dorn said. “Last September Volkswind did come and file a permit with our Zoning Department for a possible wind farm here in northern Gage County and also in Lancaster County. They did put that permit on hold or withhold it – it depends on who you talk to – in November.”
Dorn said current setbacks in Gage County require the base of a wind turbine to be at least 1,250 feet from the nearest corner of a nonparticipating residence.
Nonparticipating residences are those owned by property owners who are not being compensated for having wind turbines on their property. Structures such as barns, grain bins and livestock facilities are exempt from setback requirements.
Dorn said there are currently no restrictions where a residence can be in relation to a turbine if the homeowner is collecting a fee from the power generation company.
The Board discussed doubling the current setback requirement to 2,500 feet.
Board member Erich Tiemann pointed out that from 1,250 feet, wind turbines can still be considered a nuisance for those not being compensated for power generation.
“You can be a long way back and it might seem like a long way, until you have that tower up in the air,” he said. “Then it seems like it’s right in your backyard. If you’re getting paid for it, the tolerance factor goes up in a hurry.”
The setback requirements will be reexamined by Gage County Planning and Zoning, before eventually coming back to the Board for consideration. The process is expected to take up to eight months.
The same day the County Board discussed the setback requirements, Volkswind was scheduled to discuss Lancaster County’s setback requirements with their Planning Department. Dorn said the company withdrew its application to change the zoning code.
The Lincoln Journal Star reported Jeffrey Wagner, president of Volkswind USA, said the application was pulled at the request of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Department, which wanted more public engagement.
Wagner said current Lancaster County zoning laws function as a prohibition on wind farm development. He added the company intends to move forward with plans at some point.
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