The Lincoln County Commission once again punted on wind turbine rules, leaving both investors in a massive wind farm and its opponents in the lurch.
Commissioners unanimously passed a rule capping noise at a 45 decibels at the property line and 5 decibels over ambient noise levels at dwellings, but tabled a decision on half-mile setbacks between turbines and homes.
The elected officials didn’t set a date for a future hearing or offer a timeline for a final rule.
“It would be nice to get the point where we know what we’re dealing with and we could respond to it,” said Brian Minish of developer Dakota Power Community Wind.
Minish’s investors and members of opposition group We Care-SD dislike the half mile proposal.
Minish said a half mile would kill wind energy entirely; opponents say any rule that puts turbines within a mile of homes is a risk to the health and safety.
“It’s been more than three years, so we’re all anxious for a decision, but a half mile is a bad decision,” said Winnie Peterson, director of We Care-SD said.
The backdrop of the debate is a wind farm initially pitched as the largest in South Dakota in 2014.
DPCW and rural property owners have sparred before planning commission and county commission over wind energy’s economic value, its effect on neighboring property values, health and safety since before the approval of five test towers meant to gauge wind strength.
The planning and zoning board recommended a one-mile setback between houses and turbines last year, but the county commission didn’t agree and tabled the issue in December.
Commissioners have passed final rules on noise, shadow flicker and a handful of other wind-related topics, but the setback question remains unresolved.
On Tuesday night, in their first hearing on the half-mile setback at which public comment was offered, commissioners listened to testimony from both sides for more than two hours.
In the end, commissioners talked about the possibility of working rules for decommissioning spent turbines and protections for landowner wind rights into distance rules before passing them and tabled the issue.
“That sound you heard at about 10 o’clock last night was the can being kicked down the road,” Peterson said.
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