It took two working sessions and eight total hours, but the Codington County Planning Commission finally has revised wind tower ordinances proposals ready to put up to a formal commission vote.
For approximately five hours Monday night at the Codington County Extension Complex, the commission came up with proposed ordinance revisions that, among other things, would establish wind tower setback limits of one mile from city limits of each municipality and zoned town districts including Waverly, Kampeska Village and Grover.
For non-participating homes outside those designated areas, towers must be set back at least 1,500 feet from the closest exterior wall.
Speaking to the Public Opinion Tuesday, Zoning Officer Luke Muller said the 1,500-foot setback would be a 50 percent increase to what is currently in place. Additionally, towers measuring over 500 feet tall must adhere to setbacks of 2 1/2 feet per every foot exceeded over the 500-foot height.
Muller said the commission did not propose a maximum tower height restriction.
“At this point, I don’t know how many towers would go above 500 feet,” he said.
According to Muller, Codington County’s proposed setback ordinances appear to be about the middle of the road compared to other counties in the state with such limits. Muller said at least one county has setback limits as little as 1,000 feet while another county has setbacks of two miles. Last year, neighboring Deuel County established a 2,000-foot setback from non-participating landowners.
“With the exception of a few outliers, Codington County’s rules would be similar to, if not more restrictive, than most county ordinances as far as setbacks go,” Muller said. “But it would be unfair to call them the most restrictive of any in the state.”
Other proposed restrictions include limiting flicker shadow effects caused by the Sun’s position to no more than 30 hours per year and limiting the tower’s decibel levels to 50 as heard on non-participating neighboring property lines.
According to Muller, the shadow flicker effects language would be new to the ordinance while the 50 decibel limit would remain unchanged.
“Frankly, Codington County’s sound requirements limit is one of the most restrictive in the state,” Muller said.
The journey to the proposed ordinance revisions came in front of a crowd measuring more than 60 people with 14 of them providing verbal public input. With the proposed ordinances now in writing, Muller said the commission is tentatively scheduled to vote on them in an upcoming public meeting on Monday, April 16 beginning at 6 p.m. at the Extension Complex.
“The ultimate goal of these (two working sessions) was to get a draft that we could have for a public hearing,” he said, adding that the working sessions were designed to get a consensus on each point of the ordinance without the pressure of making an immediate vote.
If the Planning Commission approves the revised ordinances, it would make a recommendation to the Codington County Commission. The county commission would then have a first reading coinciding with a public hearing as of yet an undetermined date.
If the Planning Commission does not recommend the ordinance revisions, Muller said it would essentially be back to square one.
“If that happens, we would go back to the rules we have currently until something different could be drafted,” he said.
The debate over the county’s ordinance revisions comes as the county prepares for the likely construction of the 300-megawatt Dakota Range wind farm 20 miles north of Watertown. The county approved the Dakota Range petition submitted by Apex Clean Energy last year.
The debate also comes as the county tries to engage in a more proactive dialogue with citizens following the Ordinance 65, an all-encompassing ordinance, referendum election last year, where the county and some citizens appeared to not be on the same page. In the wake of that election, where the ordinance was upheld, Muller said discussion on wind energy ordinances was high among the priority list of citizens.
“This is a large issue we want to tackle on its own and not get lost among other ordinance topics,” Muller said.