Lancaster County is expected to adopt new wind farm regulations restrictive enough they may prevent future developments, and Gage County will likely follow suit.
The County Board of Supervisors discussed regulations at its regular meeting this week. The proposed changes are the result of joint meetings with Lancaster County officials first held in March.
County board member Matt Bauman said setback requirements will likely be changed for nonparticipating residences, those homes that are near a wind turbine but whose property owners are not associated with the turbine.
“I’ll just throw out there that we’re looking at probably increasing setbacks for a nonparticipating landowner,” he said. “The actual distance is to be determined. We’re looking at lowering the decibels. Sixty decibels is, based on the science we saw presented, too high. It creates a noise level that could actually be harmful to human beings.”
The joint discussions were prompted by Volkswind USA after the company announced plans last September for a wind farm that would be primarily in Lancaster County, though it would also occupy around 4,000 acres in Gage County.
Officials with Volkswind have expressed concern that more strict requirements for where turbines can be placed would be detrimental, and may prohibit the project from getting off the ground.
Bauman said officials will work to find a balance that leaves rural residents happy, while still allowing wind farms in the area.
“My impression was the intent is to not make the regulations so punitive that we could not have any wind production in Gage County,” he said. “I think the intent is coexistence and have people working toward that. It will probably be less than it potentially was because we’re taking into account nonparticipating land owners.”
County Board members previously explained that setback requirements state the base of a wind turbine must be at least 1,250 feet from the nearest corner of a nonparticipating residence.
The board has previously discussed doubling the setback requirement to 2,500 feet.
Gage County’s wind turbine regulations haven’t changed since they were set in 2010.
Lisa Wiegand with Gage County Planning and Zoning said the group has yet to discuss potential setbacks, but will likely do so at its next meeting.
“I think our long-term goal is to have a discussion again, but we’re going to go back to the zoning board because we didn’t present the overall findings,” she said.
When specific setbacks are settled on, the Board is expected to hold pubic hearings in Gage County to gather input before putting new regulations into effect.
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