DAKOTA CITY – Following months of meetings, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors decided to make more revisions to a proposed ordinance governing wind towers at Monday’s meeting.
About 20 people attended the third reading of the ordinance and about 10 voiced their opinions in yet another 90 minute period of public input.
Some landowners asked the board for greater setback distances and lower noise requirements than the proposed ordinance requires.
Under the proposed ordinance, applications would be filed with the Humboldt County zoning administrator, who would review the application and provide copies to the Board of Supervisors. The supervisors would set a public hearing on the application with at least one applicant representative to be present who is familiar with all aspects of the project.
Currently, the ordinance would require setback distances of 150 feet from property lines. However, the setback may be less when two adjoining property owners are within the aggregate project. The towers must be at least 1,000 feet from neighboring dwelling units and 600 feet away from wildlife management areas, recreational areas, U.S. Fish and Wildlife wetlands, river bluffs and confinement feeding operation buildings.
“The way the setback are written, right now in this ordinance, none of them are far enough away,” Supervisor Erik Underberg said.
If properly written the ordinance would set some standards, but would not prohibit the wind towers, he said.
“I do not believe it could be adopted as written,” he said of the ordinance.
Supervisor Rick Pedersen said he would like to see setback distances of 1,600 feet. However, that might disqualify some of the smaller farming operations from accepting the towers, he said.
The proposed ordinance has been compiled from similar ordinances from several other counties and is almost identical those ordinances, if not slightly more stringent he said.
“These are the numbers that have worked for other counties,” he said.
Noise level cannot exceed 60 decibels at the nearest structure or use occupied by humans.
The ordinance also has other requirements including a $500 building permit fee per tower.
The Planning and Zoning Board has recommended a $1,000 fee, Supervisor David Lee said.
Some landowners do not want the towers while others see them as an opportunity for farmers to generate more income, especially the younger farmers with smaller operations. The supervisors also see the towers as a chance to increase the county budget without raising taxes.
The board was asked where the power generated by the wind farms ends up.
“The whole United States is in one big grid,” Lee said. ”If the east needs more power they boost it that way. If it is needed here it goes here. What generates here probably stays here because it is closer, but it is all one big generator. But whoever needs it gets it.”
The definition of a dwelling in the ordinance. was changed to a liveable dwelling unless it has been been unoccupied for two years.
“I want to thank everybody for coming and expressing their opinions and being civil,” Pedersen said.
Acting on the advice of County Attorney Jon Beaty, the board decided against approving the third reading. The board decided to make changes in the ordinance, and set a first reading for June 4.
In other business, the board voted to increase the per day reimbursement for township officials from $25 to $30 a day, plus mileage effective July 1.
“There are some townships that never turn in a claim,” County Auditor Peggy Rice said.
The board also approved an increase in the hourly rate for election officers. Chairpersons receive $9.25 and regular election workers receive $8.25. The rates have been $1, and $2 above minimum wage for several years. The county employs about 30 workers.
It is hard to find people to fill the positions, Rice said.
“A little more incentive would help,” Pedersen said.
During a primary or general election the workers are there from 6:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night.
“It’s a long day for them,” she said. “Some counties have gone to splitting shifts but if I do split shifts then I have to find and train more people.”
The board approved increasing the rates by $2.
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