While the gathering of expert testimony and evidence appears over, the Clinton County Planning and Zoning Commission has one important meeting left before they start crafting what, if any, amendments they plan to propose to the county’s wind energy regulations.
The zoning commission is slated to meet Thursday, September 1, in order to hear public input regarding amendments to the county’s wind ordinances put forward by Concerned Citizens for the Future of Clinton and DeKalb Counties, a group of residents opposed to possible wind turbine developments in the two counties.
Thursday’s meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the community room of the Clinton County Courthouse. The meeting will focus only on public participation. At the meeting, residents must sign in to speak, and each will be limited to five minutes of time at the podium. Clinton County Planning and Zoning Director Beth Farwell said Monday that all residents who want to add their input are urged to attend.
The zoning commission held a series of marathon hearings in recent months to gather evidence and hear expert testimony on the issue of local wind energy regulations. This came in response to proposed zoning amendments from Concerned Citizens, which sought to strengthen wind turbine restrictions and residential protections after NextEra Energy proposed to build a portion of its Osborn Wind Project in northern Clinton County.
To the north in DeKalb County – which lacks the same zoning regulations used by Clinton County – NextEra is into the initial construction phases of the project.
The last of the hearings was held last Thursday, August 25, and included testimony about setbacks, noise, administration and the possible impact on livestock operations. The hearing began at 9 a.m. and lasted until 11:30 p.m., which included breaks for both lunch and dinner.
All together, these meetings have produced a staggering amount of information, including thousands of pages of evidence, the amount leading one zoning commissioner to joke that, if they could somehow turn the massive black binders into building materials, Clinton County could finally have a new courthouse.
The evidence has been matched with an equally impressive amount of testimony. Farwell reported that the zoning commission has been in session for approximately 51 hours between April of 2016 and now. For comparison, from April 2015 to September 2015, the zoning commission was in session just eight and a half hours.
Once the public participation hearing is conducted Thursday, the zoning commission will enter a new phase of the effort, which will include the formation of any amendments they wish to propose to the county’s wind energy regulations. The process in which the commission does this will be up to the zoning commission itself. And while the proposed amendments from the Concerned Citizens of Clinton and DeKalb Counties have served as a starting point, the zoning commission can choose to use those amendments totally, in part or not all.
The final hearing for evidence Thursday, August 25, included testimony from Matt Shatto, vice president of the Shatto Milk Company in north-central Clinton County. The company has been vocal throughout the process about their opposition to proposed wind projects in their area, citing possible risks to the production of their livestock, including stray voltage, noise and other potential stress-inducers.
Shatto, who has researched the possible risks and impacts that could accompany a wind project, reiterated his concerns on Thursday while citing multiple reports. He did concede that evidential reports can be found on both sides of the issue.
Seth Wright, lawyer for Polsinelli – NextEra’s representation in the hearings – was adamant in his objection to Shatto’s testimony Thursday, asking that Shatto not be considered an expert in relation to the science and research regarding wind energy issues. Instead, Wright suggested that Shatto’s testimony would be better suited during public participation. The zoning commission – which has been lax in its response to objections throughout the process – went on to allow the testimony.
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