The next month could help define the fate of proposed wind turbines in north central Clinton County and whether the contentious project can find purchase locally.
The Clinton County Planning and Zoning Commission will be hosting a public hearing on Friday, January 22, to hear opinions before deciding on a proposed moratorium of any permit applications pertaining to wind energy conversion systems. The moratorium, if approved, could run until December of this year in an effort to give the commission time to rework wind energy regulations in Clinton County.
The commission is set to begin considering amendments to their wind regulations during the regular monthly meeting on Thursday, February 4.
NextEra Energy Resources is proposing to build wind turbines in both Clinton and DeKalb Counties, but the company has met stiff public opposition on both fronts and gained little momentum in Clinton County.
Last July, Clinton County Planning and Zoning denied a special use permit request from Tower Associates, LLC – a subsidiary of NextEra – to erect meteorological testing towers in Clinton County. If approved, the towers would have been used to monitor and collect wind data ahead of building actual turbines.
Still, NextEra submitted an application for a special use permit to build and operate 33 turbines in Clinton County in late December. The issue never came before the board, however, as the planning and zoning department rejected the application outright, citing the document as incomplete – missing required site plans, studies for flicker and noise control, and providing maps that were not specific enough.
NextEra previously had a permit to build turbines in Clinton County in 2010, but cooled on the project when the prospective energy customer backed out.
Opposition to the proposed project has coalesced along the way. Planning and zoning meetings in Clinton County are drawing around 90 spectators when the wind turbine issue makes the agenda, the majority of which are firmly against the proposed project.
That was the case last Thursday, January 7, when the Clinton County Planning and Zoning Commission held their regular monthly meeting at the courthouse. A little less than 90 people crowded into the community room to see presentations from both NextEra Energy and also Shatto Milk Company, which – located on 33 Highway in northern Clinton County – has been vocally opposed to the project.
But perhaps the biggest development out of Thursday’s meeting came from the Concerned Citizens for the Future of Clinton and DeKalb Counties, a public group in opposition of the proposed NextEra project. The group submitted 25 proposed amendments to the county’s wind energy regulations. Nearly 40 pages in length, the proposed amendments aim to create stronger protections for non-participating landowners near the proposed turbines, expand both preliminary and operational testing requirements and restrict the placement of wind turbines, among other regulations.
The proposed amendments weren’t discussed during the meeting on Thursday. The Clinton County Planning and Zoning Commission voted rather to table the amendments to their January 22 special session meeting in order to give all involved parties time to study the proposed amendments. It was later decided that the commission would begin addressing proposed amendments during the regular monthly meeting on Thursday, February 4. The commission will also consider any amendments proposed by NextEra.
NextEra representative Neil Jones was at the meeting last Thursday to give a presentation to the commission, in which he said wind turbines, when sited properly, can work well within the community.
Jones said NextEra has approximately 9,600 turbines at more than 100 different sites, adding that NextEra hopes to construct 33 turbines in Clinton County and the overall project could create between six to eight (perhaps up to 10) full-time jobs.
Jones went on to cite several studies that found no connection between wind turbines – when sited properly, he again emphasized – and many of the concerns voiced by project opponents, including adverse property values and health effects.
Matt Shatto of Shatto Milk Company also presented at the meeting, reiterating the company’s opposition to the proposed project and belief that Clinton County’s current wind energy regulations fail to properly protect residents.
Shatto said that NextEra is presenting only one side of the story. Todd Ruskamp, the company’s legal counsel in the matter, went on to cite counter studies linking their concerns to wind turbines, as well as numerous media stories in which communities and entities are dealing with the adverse effects of wind projects.
To recap the schedule, the Clinton County Planning and Zoning Commission will be holding a special meeting on Friday, January 22, for a public hearing on the proposed moratorium on wind energy permit applications, followed by the regular session meeting on Thursday, February 4, in which they’ll begin to address proposed amendments to their zoning regulations.
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