September 22, 2017

Wind turbines dominate discussion at commissioners public hearing

Laura Anderson | Clearwater Record-Ewing News | Sep 20, 2017 |

Wind turbines were the main topic of discussion at the Antelope County Board of Commissioners public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 12 at the Antelope County Courthouse. The board meeting room in the Courthouse annex was packed with people wanting to voice opinions to the board.

The board met to update zoning regulations, draft a zoning map and subdivision regulations. There are 84 pages of current regulations and the new proposed regulations are 144 pages including a cover page and the table of contents. The turbine portion takes up eight pages including small wind energy systems regulations.

Keith Marvin of Marvin Planning Services, County Clerk Lisa Payne, Zoning Administrator Liz Doerr, Chairman Leroy Kerkman, Commisioners Eli Jacob, Eddie Schindler, Jerry Schwager and Charlie Henery were in attendance.

Proposed setbacks for turbines are 2,700 feet from a non-participating landowner’s residence and 1,000 feet from participating landowners. Only two turbines are allowed per non-participating landowner between the 2,700 foot setback and 4,000 feet.

The board began hearing testimony, starting with people who opposed some of the current wind turbine regulations.

The majority of the opposition wanted the board to include a decibel level in the regulations.

Holly Meuret, of Brunswick, was one who pleaded with the board to include a decibel level.

“We’re a very ag-based county. This is not agriculture at all. This is industry and I would like it addressed as such,” Meuret said.

Gary Borer, of Elgin shared a similar sentiment.

“If the zoning rules are approved without noise limits, the county will take on a liability for the wind tower noise. Fifty decibels is the accepted limit throughout the wind tower industry even though the World Health Organization says anything over 40 is harmful. By approving these regulations without a noise limit, it will relieve the developers from all liability and put it all on the county.”

There were several people who spoke against the proposed regulations lacking a decibel level and just as many who spoke in favor of them. Some were worried that taking too long to set regulations would scare the wind energy companies away.

“How many chances are going to get in the county for economic development?” Robert Johnston, of Orchard, said.

After more than an hour of hearing testimony both for and against the current regulations, the board discussed the matter for a short time and came to a decision.

“We can’t pass this whole thing all together anyway because there are parts of it that I don’t know whether we totally understand,” Kerkman said.

The board voted to close the public portion of the hearing and continue discussion at the next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 10 at 11 a.m.

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