Members of the Madison County Joint Planning Commission have been given some homework – Study the county’s proposed wind energy regulations and visit a wind farm.
While it appeared Thursday evening that many members already had done so, commissioners were reminded that they probably could never read and review all of the information available pertinent to the proposed regulations.
On April 3, the Madison County commissioners voted to establish a six-month moratorium on accepting wind farm applications to allow time to study existing zoning regulations pertaining to wind turbines.
Pierce County recently took about a year to study wind regulations and then enacted regulations that might be viewed as more stringent than some of the nearby counties. Meanwhile, Stanton County voted last year to prohibit wind farms entirely.
Heather McWhorter, who serves as the zoning administrator for both Madison and Pierce counties, said Madison County could benefit from some of the input Pierce County received during its process.
But Madison County – like any county – will have its own unique needs to have regulations that fit accordingly, she added.
There were three people who attended Thursday evening’s meeting who spoke during the public comments portion. They were not required to identify themselves.
The joint planning commission did hold a public hearing on the proposed regulations in April. At that meeting, Renae Rystrom of Pierce County discussed her experiences with wind energy and encouraged commissioners to gain factual information from credible sources before taking any action.
Ned Porter of Invenergy, a developer of wind farms, also attended and answered questions at the April hearing and Thursday’s meeting.
At Thursday’s meeting, a man who identified himself as a landowner in Madison County said this is an important issue for landowners and the county itself. It has an impact on a variety of things, including landowner revenue, county revenue and neighbors’ rights.
He said wind turbines are getting bigger and are producing more electricity, thus there isn’t as great a need for clustering them as there was a few yeas ago.
Madison County has regulations from 2007-08 that are not as stringent as those in place in many counties. In addition, they don’t address all of the issues that have arisen since wind turbines have become more common in Nebraska.
The industry has evolved, with changes involving everything from the height of the towers holding the turbines to the amount of electricity produced.
Another landowner said the county should takes its time and consider new regulations carefully, which can help offset problems later. From a neighboring landowner’s point of view, two of the most important considerations are setbacks and the lighting of the towers at night, he said.
The county’s proposed wind energy regulations are listed on Madison County’s website under the Planning and Zoning tab for citizens to review.
Another person at the meeting encouraged the commissioners to look at several counties’ regulations, along with those enacted in Pierce County.
All three said the demand for green energy is strong and growing. In addition, they said, wind energy has become so efficient that it is now the cheapest way to generate electricity.
One of the Madison County landowners said he also owns property in Antelope County that has a wind tower on it, along with a transmission line installed across his property.
That prompted Richard Grant, commission chairman, to ask if he thought he had been treated fairly.
The landowner said he had been. “They did what they said they were going to do,” he said.
Commissioners said they planned to take a trip to Antelope and Boone counties to see wind farms there up close.
“It’s definitely worth it in order to make an informed decision,” McWhorter said.
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