Planning and Zoning officials from Gage and Lancaster counties will be working together as they reexamine each county’s regulations for wind farms.
Lisa Wiegand, with Gage County Planning and Zoning, said the group was recently approached by officials with the Lancaster County Planning Department regarding wind farm regulations.
She said Gage County was invited to participate as its neighbors to the north consider its regulations, a move prompted by plans from Volkswind USA to install wind turbines in the area.
The proposed wind farm would primarily be in Lancaster County, but would occupy around 4,000 acres in Gage County.
Volkswind was scheduled to discuss Lancaster County’s setback requirements two weeks ago, though the company withdrew its application to change the zoning code.
A pending application in Gage County was also withdrawn and wind farm regulations are being looked at.
Wiegand said attending Lancaster County’s meetings regarding wind farm regulations will shed light on Gage County’s own policies, which have been discussed on numerous occasions over the last five years.
“They’re in the planning sessions of reevaluating their regs, and a lot of it is based on new scientific research that’s out there in terms of measuring dBA (decibels), the ambient sounds and how much annoyance there is,” Wiegand said. “Obviously there’s a natural annoyance with that, and there’s now some materials out there that have been published.”
County Board chairman Myron Dorn said even if Gage County doesn’t follow suit with whatever Lancaster County decides, it would benefit both sides of the county line to communicate about their respective policies.
“Right now, we’re not really familiar,” Dorn said. “We can maybe learn a lot from this to set our regulations.”
Wiegand said the Lancaster County group meets every two weeks, and she expects attending the meetings to benefit Gage County.
“There’s a lot our commission actually has to learn about the noise levels because you’re learning about the pitch and ambient sound,” she said. “Then you’ve got your natural winds sounds. It will be a learning process for us and we do want to do that … It’s not something that we want to rush into. We want to be able to utilize Lancaster County’s invitation to us. I think that will be a tremendous help to us as we look at our regs.”
The County Board also discussed wind farm regulations at its previous meeting. Specifically, what setback restrictions would apply if Volkswind builds in the County.
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. The board discussed doubling the setback requirement to 2,500 feet.
In other business:
*The Board approved the refinancing of Beatrice Community Hospital health care facilities revenue refunding bonds, for an amount not to exceed $10 million.
*The Gage County Highway Department’s one and six year road plan was approved by the Board. The plan was left unchanged from previous public discussions.
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