Recent rumblings in the wind energy field have caused the Clay County Board of Supervisors to take another look at local zoning ordinances associated with wind turbines. Specifically, the board reexamined the setback requirements for the turbines.
“Our zoning ordinances say the setback has to be 110 percent of the total height,” Clay County Zoning Director Tammy McKeever explained. “The philosophy behind that is, if it were ever to fall, it wouldn’t fall on anybody else’s property and it wouldn’t fall on any county roads or state roads.”
McKeever estimated that similar wind turbines measure approximately 250 feet in height, necessitating a 275-foot setback. Assistant Clay County Attorney Barry Sackett indicated that newer turbine models may be closer to 300 feet in height.
As property, the legal property owners, adjacent landowners, county government and utility companies may all consent to a lesser setback distance for nearby turbines, if they so desire.
According to Clay County Zoning Director Tammy McKeever, a wind energy company called Apex has expressed interest in constructing turbines in Clay County and at least two individual land owners have contacted her office in hopes of having the ordinance waived. McKeever indicated that landowners had also expressed concerns as to what would become of the turbines if the energy company no longer has use for them in the future. In a later section, the ordinance specifies that any wind energy device will be deemed abandoned if inactive for a continuous period of one year and must be removed. The financial cost of the removal falls to the turbine’s owner.
McKeever confirmed that current ordinances would place the responsibility of removing the turbines on the energy company, were this to happen. Sackett noted that other wind turbine agreements, specify that removal is the responsibility of the owner, in this case the energy company.
“I think a lot of the leases have decommissioning provisions. They’ve gotten a lot more standard over the years,” Sackett said.
This being the case, Sackett went on to indicate that the county would not necessarily be required to set aside funds for the potential removal of the turbines. He noted that, if the county were to feel that an extra measure should be taken, a surety bond could be a part of the agreement, but this could potentially discourage developers. Supervisor Barry Anderson agreed that a surety bond may not be best in such cases.
“That’s the thing. You’d hate to push development away,” Anderson said.
Overall, the board generally conceded that, should an adjacent land owner wish to waive the setback requirement, the county would not need to become involved. In cases that involve a county right of way, they expect that the matters will be examined on a case by case basis.
“Our position is that we don’t want to be any more restrictive or less restrictive than any county around us,” Skow said. “If it’s between the land owners, it’s out of our hands.”
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