The Clinton County Planning and Zoning Board will be taking their wind energy regulations back to the drawing board in the coming months.
The board voted 5-0 to review and amend county regulations dealing with wind energy operations during their regular monthly meeting Thursday, December 3, at the Clinton County Courthouse. Also on Thursday, the board attempted to pass a moratorium on all related wind energy applications, but that decision is being held off until they can nail down the exact process.
The county’s review comes in the wake of NextEra Energy’s renewed interest in building a $350 million wind farm in northern Clinton County and southern DeKalb County. Opponents of the project have coalesced, citing a list of concerns ranging from health effects to potential decreases in property value and impacts on nearby wildlife.
Those opponents were out in force Thursday, filling the courthouse community room to the brim.
Fifteen-year Clinton County Planning and Zoning member Terry Beers said Thursday that their wind energy regulations – established in 2008 – appear out of date compared to the technological advances made by the wind energy industry.
“It’s made leaps and bounds,” he said. “The towers have enlarged, the wattage of the unit has almost doubled, the ability to transmit the energy has been improved, and there are improvements in the actual unit, itself. So we have to look at this.
“We need to take a step back and look at both sides, and my ultimate goal is to make an even playing field for everybody.”
Those voting in favor of the review Thursday were Beers, Sylvia O’Connor, Roger Porter, Michael York and Wayne Porter. Steve Mowry and Patrick Clark were not present for the meeting. As chairman, Michael Adair did not vote on the issue.
Bruce Burdick, a rural Plattsburg resident and chairman for Concerned Citizens for the Future of Clinton and DeKalb Counties, spoke to the board Thursday ahead of the vote, urging them to amend their wind energy regulations.
“I think we did an excellent job in trying to illustrate the difficulties and problems we have now in terms of the wind industry,” said Burdick, who previously spent eight years on the planning and zoning board. “There are a number of things in the last seven years we’ve learned in terms of the science of the wind turbines that we need to really apply to our county ordinances here.”
Planning and Zoning Chairman Michael Adair took an informal poll of the room Thursday, counting those for and against wind energy in Clinton County. It was nearly unanimous, with 92 of the attendees identifying as opponents.
“I think what that represents is the concern and love that people have for living in Clinton County,” Burdick said of the strong turnout. “We really enjoy the way things are in the countryside right now, and we believe that those should be retained at this point.”
In July, the planning and zoning board voted 6-1 to deny a special use permit request from Tower Associates, LLC – a subsidiary of NextEra Energy – to build and operate meteorological testing towers in Clinton County. Currently, NextEra has no applications or appeals before Clinton County. NextEra spokesman Steve Stengel said that their primary focus is on DeKalb County for the moment, but that they’re still exploring opportunities in Clinton County.
Planning and Zoning Administrator Beth Farwell said she expects the review of wind energy regulations to be a lengthy process, capped with a public hearing for any amendments put forward by the board. The office is researching what will legally be required in order to enact a moratorium during the review.
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