PIERCE – No action was taken Monday on proposed wind energy regulations by the Pierce County board of commissioners – nor were comments allowed from the public – as the topic continues to be of interest.
Commissioners already had taken comments from 22 people at a meeting in November on the proposed wind regulations and then allowed 15 minutes of comments at a January meeting from both opponents and supporters of wind energy.
Since then, however, the county board has proposed some more stringent regulations than what were put forth by the county’s planning commission in November.
As a result, at least one person in favor of wind energy requested to address the county board at its meeting Monday morning.
That prompted Terry Wragge of Pierce, chairman of the county board, to express concerns.
“Then we’re going to have to let everybody (speak),” Wragge said.
Heather McWhorter, the planning and zoning administrator for Pierce and Madison counties, said initially she heard from residents who mostly were against wind energy. Lately, however, she said the comments are coming in from people who support it.
Commissioners asked McWhorter if there was any interest in wind farms other than the southwest part of the county.
McWhorter said there also is interest in the eastern part of the county – generally east of Highway 81.
Shannon Wragge, county clerk, prepared copies of the proposed regulations that were available at the meeting. She also said the regulations can be viewed online on the Pierce County web site.
The proposed regulations include definitions and setbacks as well as detailing when conditional-use permits are required. They also address such issues as lighting of the towers, flicker, noise and removal after they are no longer in use.
Wragge said once the regulations are decided upon, she can put them in the form of a resolution that can be acted upon by the county board.
Terry Wragge said that until the regulations are finished, there is little use in discussing any possible wind farms.
Commissioner Brad Albers said he would like to hear from a couple of people yet on the proposed regulations before he makes a decision.
Commissioners also discussed the possibility of devising a questionnaire that would seek individual opinions from within the county on wind energy.
But Terry Wragge said there has been plenty of time for people to express opinions.
“I think we’ve had enough meetings where everybody could have voiced their opinion already,” Wragge said. “It’s been going on for three months of this now.”
The proposed wind regulations are scheduled to be considered again at the next county board meeting on Monday, Feb. 26.
Wind energy regulations
The Pierce County board of commissioners is considering adopting enhanced wind energy regulations. Some of the regulations proposed on Jan. 16 and still under consideration are:
* Turbines must be at least 3,500 feet away from any nonparticipating landowner’s house. That distance has been modified from 2,700 feet. Turbines also must be at least 2,000 feet from participating landowners’ house, which was increased from 1,000 feet.
* Turbines must be at least two miles from any public lands, including wildlife management areas and state recreation areas. This has been modified from 2,700 feet.
* Noise must be measured at 40 decibels or lower from at least 2,000 feet.
* The county requires applicants to have a line of credit or escrow of at least 20 percent of the original cost of each wind turbine or the system. This ensures funds will be available to remove the turbines when they are no longer in use. Originally, the line of credit or escrow was 10 percent of the original cost.