CLEAR LAKE – Despite another lengthy public meeting Tuesday, the Deuel County Commission was unable to move significantly forward on adopting new wind ordinances.
Meeting for over two hours Tuesday in the Clear Lake Community Center in front of a crowd measuring over 150 people, the Deuel County Commission wasn’t able to get to a first reading of a written ordinance that was drafted over the past month.
But public dialogue and a back and forth discussion between the commission and representatives from Invenergy, NextEra Energy Resources, and Avangrid Renewables – three firms who have all drafted plans to erect wind towers in Deuel County – produced ordinance revisions dealing with wind tower setbacks from non-participating residences and businesses as well as lake settlements.
The commission also dropped a property value guarantee provision after facing emphatic opposition from the three firms, maintaining that was an uncommon provision in other parts of the county.
Under the provision, non-participating property owners would have received a guarantee that their property values would not have dropped if they were located within three-quarters of a mile from the nearest wind turbine.
“I know that’s not going to make a lot of people happy,” Commissioner Gary DeJong said of dropping the provision.
Altogether, the revisions to the proposed ordinances necessitated a rewrite that will be presented for another potential first reading in late May.
Under the changes primarily suggested by DeJong, wind turbine setbacks from non-participating residences and businesses would be reduced from the six times the height of the tower suggested by the original proposed ordinance to four times the tower’s height – estimated in the range of somewhere between 1,500 to 2,000 feet.
Hearing negative feedback from the representatives of all three wind energy companies about the original setback proposal and a split reaction from the crowd, DeJong said he also finds the six times threshold excessive.
“I probably wouldn’t vote for six times either,” he said.
If the setbacks were four times the height of a wind tower, Tyler Wilhelm of NextEra and Jesse Bermel of Avangrid theorized their firms could work with it, while Dan Litchfield of Invenergy said the firm could not.
Litchfield’s opposition to the adjusted setback drew rebuke from DeJong later on in the meeting.
“If two wind energy companies can work with four times, it would seem that the third company could work with it if it really tried,” DeJong said.
In perhaps finding a reason for Invenergy’s opposition to that setback requirement, one audience member said that Invenergy’s project plan is set entirely within Deuel County, while NextEra’s and Avangrid’s plans span in multiple counties.
Some audience members theorized that the issue could eventually come down to a county vote. DeJong said he would like to avoid that, citing costs and his responsibility as a commissioner.
“A county-wide vote is going to cost between $15,000 to $20,000. That’s a lot of bucks. Do we have to spend that money to reach a decision?” he asked. “I was also brought up to take things head on.”
If a first reading on the proposed ordinance with the changes comes to pass in late May, a second reading and possible adoption would be held 10 days later in early June.
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