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PIERCE – The Pierce County board of commissioners approved a set of wind energy regulations Monday that could be viewed as a compromise.
Overall, the approved regulations are somewhere between the original regulations recommended by the Pierce County Joint Planning Commission and more stringent regulations discussed by the county board.
The action seemingly ends months of input, discussions and meetings – or at least until the first conditional-use permit application for a wind farm is put forth.
The regulations that were approved establish a set of rules more stringent than state regulations. At earlier county board meetings, it was disclosed that some landowners in the county had been approached by two wind energy companies seeking easements.
Before considering the matter Tuesday, commissioners clarified a stipulation that allows a house to be built within the 2,700-foot setback of a tower – provided a waiver is signed.
Commissioners also discussed a decision by the joint planning commission not to put forth any regulations on sound levels.
Heather McWhorter, the zoning administrator for Madison and Pierce counties, said the thought was that with a minimum distance of 2,700 feet, the noise level should not be an issue for neighboring houses.
McWhorter said there also were concerns about who would be responsible for testing.
“If you did have it in there, we’d have to pay for the testing,” said Terry Wragge of Pierce, chairman of the county board, said of a sound level requirement.
Commissioner Brad Albers said if there are concerns about wind noise, concerns also could be raised about noise from irrigation motors and drying bins.
Wragge said one difference with those examples is that those noises are seasonal – not year-round.
Ultimately, Albers moved that the planning and zoning regulations be approved with a couple of changes.
The first was that no towers could be located within two miles of any state recreational areas. The second was that 20 percent of the costs of the turbine must be secured up front to cover subsequent decommissioning costs.
The original proposal put forth by the planning commission only called for turbines to be at least 2,700 feet from state recreational areas. It also only called for 10 percent of the cost of the turbines up front to cover decommissioning costs.
Commissioner Marvin Elwood Jr. and Albers voted in favor of the regulations. Wragge voted against them.
Wragge did note that they are final, saying “This is what we’ll go by.”
County Clerk Shannon Wragge said she will post online the final amended regulations on the county’s web site at www.co.pierce.ne.us.
Commissioners also reminded a nearly filled room of county residents that no wind towers may be put forth without a conditional-use permit, which must be approved by the county.
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