After more than a year of debating, researching and modifying, Montgomery County Commissioners approved an amendment to the county’s ordinance regulating noise levels of wind turbines.
The measure passed 3-0 Monday before a packed meeting room at Montgomery County Courthouse.
“This is an improvement from what we had in 2009,” commission president Jim Fulwider said. “I don’t see how it’s not a step in the right direction. I think we did our due diligence and gave this the time to look into and listen.”
The ordinance regulates noise produced by wind turbines and sets the limit at 50 decibels, down from 60 decibels in the previous ordinance enacted in 2009. Setbacks also were adjusted requiring a 1,500-foot buffer zone between wind farms and the property lines of non-participating homeowners on five acres of land or less. A 1,400-foot buffer will be required between wind farms and the nearest primary structure for non-participating landowners. A 1,000-foot buffer is required between primary structures owned by participating landowners.
It’s been a long, drawn out, and frustrating issue for both supporters of wind farm development and those against it. Though the ordinance specifically regulates noise from wind energy conversion systems, those opposed tried to use the amendment process as an opportunity to block wind farm development all together. Opponents cited everything from health concerns to potential future financial burdens for the county should wind farm development not work out.
Most are arguments that this particular county ordinance for noise doesn’t, and can’t, address.
“I don’t think there’s a person in this room who has talked at some point or another who hasn’t told us that nothing’s going to be perfect,” Fulwider said. “We know that not everybody is going to be 100 percent happy, but with this ordinance, I feel like we’ve addressed the issues that we’re capable of addressing at this time, and that’s the sound issues.”
Supporters see wind farms as an economic opportunity that would benefit the county. And while developers have all along been capable of filing for permits and able to begin construction, the amended ordinance provides clarity on what direction to go moving forward.
In other business, county commissioners:
• Approved the use of two spots in the courthouse parking lot to be used by Wellbrooke to serve a free lunch to the public Sept. 26.
• Approved changes to the employee handbook clarifying holiday pay and paid time off for part-time employees, and changes to the minimum FMLA requirements to bring the county in compliance with changes made by the U.S. Department of Labor.
• Approved a fund to be established for a Department of Corrections grant for the probation department.
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