Wind turbine concerns ranging from excessive noise to the well-being of area turkey vultures were presented to Gage officials during a special hearing Tuesday evening.
The county is in the process of reevaluating its wind energy regulations following a proposal from Volkswind USA last September for a wind farm.
Plans for the proposed wind farm – which would be primarily in Lancaster County but occupy around 4,000 acres in Gage County – were put on hold as both counties addressed concerns regarding wind turbines.
A total of 16 members of the public spoke at the meeting. All but one were either firmly opposed to allowing wind turbines or expressed concern about allowing Volkswind to build in Gage County.
Proximity to rural residents was a reoccurring theme throughout the meeting.
“We live on an acreage on the family farm,” said Daryl Schoenbeck, who lives west of Cortland. “This is where my wife grew up. The plan filed earlier with Gage County by Volkswind has five windmills within a mile or closer to our residence. This is a major change to our lives that affects us that we do not want.”
Proposed changes to Gage County’s wind farm regulations include specific definitions of participating and non-participating landowners, in addition to general setback and design standards, which under one proposal would be 3/8 mile or four times the total height of the tower from any residence in a non-participating property.
A complete list of wind energy regulations and proposed changes can be found on the homepage of the county’s website at www.gagecountynebraska.us.
Cindy Chapman, who lives northeast of Cortland, questioned if the monetary gains for a select group of farmers who own the land where turbines would be placed would be worth inconveniencing the rest who live in the area.
“The number of participating farmers, mostly two wealthy farm families in the Hallam and Corland areas, is miniscule in comparison to the combined population of 319,000 in Lancaster and Gage counties,” she said. “Is the income of these few farmers more important than the health and safety of the rest of us?”
Additionally, Mark Engler, park superintendent of Homestead National Monument of America, spoke at the hearing regarding the detrimental effect wind turbines can have on the view of an area.
Multiple others at the meeting expressed concern about noise generated by wind farms and claimed lasting headaches can result.
The lone person to speak in favor of wind turbines was Larry Oltman, who lives north of Cortland.
“I personally know that I want my families to be safe and sound, but I also know that Iowa has numerous wind farms and they are more populated per square mile than we are,” he said. “I don’t see a whole lot of people raising a lot of trouble over something that has been there.”
As discussions continue on proposed wind farm regulations, County Board member Matt Bauman reminded the public there are currently no pending permits in Gage County.
“Even if we were to get one, I know I would at least not approve anything to do with that until we get these set because we’re in the process,” he said. “Right now, there is no project out there or permit sitting on a desk in Gage County.”
The public will have at least two more opportunities to provide input before an updated set of regulations is approved.
Gage County Planning and Zoning will hold a discussion during an upcoming meeting. The commission meets the second Thursday of the month at 3 p.m. at the Gage County Courthouse, though it was stated at the meeting wind regulations won’t be discussed during October’s planning meeting.
After the commission determines what regulations should be, it will make a recommendation to the County Board.
The board will be able to amend the regulations and will hold an additional public hearing before adopting a proposal.