TYNDALL – The Bon Homme County Commission has taken the first step toward amending its zoning regulations to address wind farms.
Before a packed room, the five commissioners unanimously approved Tuesday the first reading for Article 17, an ordinance dealing with wind energy systems (WES). The commissioners repeated the 5-0 vote in scheduling the second reading and final approval for the Nov. 3 regular meeting.
Approving both measures were commissioners Russell Jelsma, John Fathke, John Hauck, Mike Soukup and Duane Bachmann.
Bon Homme County currently doesn’t have any zoning regulations for wind farms. The county contains part of the Beethoven wind farm near Tripp. Beethoven would be grandfathered under the current ordinance.
The wind ordinance, if finalized and passed, would cover the proposed Prevailing Winds farm. However, the ordinance doesn’t specifically address Prevailing Winds or other projects.
The main point of Tuesday night’s hearing dealt with the section dealing with setbacks for wind farms. In the end, the commissioners voted to approve the ordinance as recommended by the county zoning board.
The ordinance calls for setbacks of 1,000 feet near residences and 550 feet near property lines.
The public hearing represented the second portion of Tuesday’s regular commission meeting. The commissioners recessed until the evening, when the hearing was held for greater convenience for the general public. The hearing was held in the courtroom to accommodate the estimated 80 persons in attendance.
The public comment portion of the hearing lasted 1 hour, 40 minutes. The commissioners heard 35 speakers, with 25 favoring the wind ordinance and 10 opposing to it. The commissioners received an additional 17 letters in favor and seven letters in opposition.
The public testimony brought a wide range of data and opinion, with the discussion becoming passionate at times.
The commissioners noted a wind farm could be constructed even with passage of the ordinance, but the county would have some controls. They added that the proposed Bon Homme ordinance follows the state’s recommendations and what other counties have used.
Without Article 17, the wind developers would only need a conditional-use permit, the commissioners added.
Discussion was held on possibly changing the proposed 1,000 feet setback to 1,500 feet.
The Bon Homme County commissioners could decide to amend the ordinance to 1,500 feet at the second reading, according to Brian McGinnis with the District III Planning and Development office in Yankton.
The county could also decide to amend the ordinance at any other time down the line, he added.