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Questions raised on townships’ authority

Proposed regulations for wind turbines are headed the agendas of several township boards, but questions have been raised about the townships’ authority to enact what could be a zoning issue.

Franklin Township, which surrounds David City, will consider the proposals next Tuesday in a meeting at Sunshine Court.

David City attorney Jim Egr, the counsel for Franklin Township, said that a court opinion may be needed if the township electors decide to approve the limits, including a ban on the transmission lines under township roads.

“There is a question if the type of regulations they want to get passed if it doesn’t’ cross over into zoning,” Egr said. “Zoning regulations don’t mention anything about townships.”

If Franklin township rejects the proposed regulations, Egr said, a court opinion may be sought by another township that votes to approve them.

In Franklin Township, Omaha-based Bluestem Energy is looking to install two wind turbines that would add power to the David City electric grid under allowances made for alternative energy resources by the Nebraska Public Power District. Across northern and eastern Butler County, NextEra Energy resources is looking at a complex of up to 112 wind turbines.

In addition to Franklin the township boards of Linwood, Oak Creek, Richardson and Skull Creek townships have been asked to place the regulations on their upcoming meeting agendas. In each township, a local registered voter has brought the regulations up for consideration in an effort that has been led by the Bohemian Alps Wind Watchers.

In setting township policy, decisions are made by a majority vote of a township’s registered voters during township meeting. Township boards do not vote on policy matters.

The regulations, according to the drafters of the proposals, is to ensure the safety of “persons and property” in the township.

The regulations seek to ban the high-voltage power lines of the wind farms from being placed under township roads, and they also include proposals for greater setbacks from the property lines of non-participating property owners and also from the township roads.

Regulations also would be in place requiring compliance with federal aviation rules and resticts the use of strobe lighting.
The proposed regulations

Prohibiting the placement of a high voltage (greather than 480 volts) power line under the town property, including town roads, right-of-ways, and ditches within the Town of Linwood.

Each turbine will be no less than 1,640 feet fromany property line of an owner not associated with the project. Each turbine will be no less than 1,640 feet from any town road.

The regulations also limit the amount of noise a turbine can generate between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and lower limits for the period between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m..

The turbines also must meet federal aviation requirements, incuding lighting and interference issues. Strobe lighting should be avoided if alternative lighting is allowed.

The distance between tower support bases must be spaced a minimum of five rotor diameters distance figured by the size of the largest rotor.

Each tower would have a decommissioning plan outlining the means, procedures and cost of removing the turbines and all related supporting infrastructure and a bond or equivalent