More than 60 local residents were present for the Sabetha Planning and Zoning meeting, when the board voted unanimously to remove commercial wind generation facilities from the Sabetha’s “AG” Agricultural District Regulations Code. Others present at the Thursday, Jan. 3, meeting were Sabetha Planning and Zoning Commission members Jerry Johnson, David Koch, Lynn Hartter, Scott Wedel, Shannon Stapleton, Matt Heiman and Scott Krebs. Also present were City Administrator Doug Allen and Assistant City Administrator Bill Shroyer.
Currently, the City of Sabetha Land Development Code Article 2 Section 2-102 – which was adopted in September 2003 – states that commercial wind generation facilities are permitted within Sabetha’s extraterritorial area. See Figure A.
Allen explained that the City Commission requested that the Planning Commission review this code.
“The Sabetha City Commission has asked you as the Planning Commission to look into our extraterritorial district agricultural section as it is listed as permitted use for commercial wind generation facilities,” Allen said.
According to Allen, the Planning Commission needed to decided either to remove Commercial Wind Generation Facilities (item five) as a permitted use from the article; or it could be moved to be a conditional use, which would require a public hearing; or to prohibit Commercial Wind Generation Facilities from being put up in the extraterritorial district.
At this time, Wedel opened the meeting up for public discussion.
Matthew Smith presented what he believes are items to consider when living near an industrial wind turbine project. Those items include: the size of the windmills, which is 472 feet, with a two-acre blade sweep; shadow flicker; noise, both audible and sub-audible (infrasound); health effects; people moving to the area – will it diminish their desire to live here; how many people will relocate; property values; new construction of homes in the country; protection for families on outer edge of city limits; and the economic impact.
Galen Ackerman also gave a short presentation about wind turbines and their effects on those living near wind farm projects.
Ed Steinlage he doesn’t believe a lot of people in Nemaha County understand what is going on and what the companies ultimately want.
“They just want land to put turbines on,” he said. “They don’t care about us, and as bad as that sounds, that’s the reality. A lot of people have signed contacts and are wanting to get out of them now. I just ask that we do something to prevent them to be either very close to our community or not have them in our community at all.”
Lori Menold brought up the impact of our air ambulance or Life Star.
Krebs said he believed the FAA is starting to step in and they do have restrictions on what can be built near an airport.
“Generally, you need 30 feet at a distance from an unrestricted building limit line and then for every additional 7 feet horizontally you can go one more vertically,” he said. “Now from the airport aspect of it, that is kind of false, but the FAA will step in based on those particular locations.”
Invenergy representative Conner Rooney confirmed that any rules and regulations the FAA has in place will be followed.
The effects of wind turbines on property values was addressed. Ryan Bergman and Bill Glace both said that there are at least four instances so far in which dirt work and the possible purchase of rural property has been put on hold until a decision is made regarding the wind projects.
“If you create a safe zone, people will flock to you, rather than away from you,” Bergman said. “If the county doesn’t do anything and you do, then it will create an oasis for people that want to build homes here.”
Gavin Angell said that from a real estate standpoint, wind turbines will affect property values.
“If we are anywhere inside of the train tracks that run through town or they [potential buyers] think they can hear it, they are instantly less interested in that property,” Angell said. “If we are looking at 480-foot tall turbines, and they can see it, yet alone hear it, yes it’s going to affect property values.”
After hearing all public comments, the commission unanimously voted to remove commercial wind generation facilities (item five) under Article 2, Section 2-102, and stay as a prohibited use within the extraterritorial area as the defined within Sabetha’s comprehensive plan. This decision now will be brought in front of the Sabetha City Commission for final approval at the Monday, Jan. 14, meeting.
Wedel then discussed the possibility of extending Sabetha’s jurisdiction area. Allen said in order to do that, the comprehensive plan would have to be changed, which will require a public hearing, after notifying both counties, and then running notices in the newspaper.
“Three miles from the city limits is the maximum that we can expand our zoning to,” Allen said.
Martin Mishler said that there was opposition when this zoning was adopted.
“When we adopted this [comprehensive plan], we were proposing to go three miles, but there was opposition to the city extending the zoning jurisdiction that far,” he said. “So the compromise was to come back to about one and a half to two miles. But by state statutes, you as the planning commission can recommend that [three-mile zoning] and the city commission can adopt it.”
Krebs asked for any comment on moving Sabetha’s zoning back to three miles.
“I would encourage the commission to consider this heavily,” Selena Brownlee said. “We have no state protection, there are no legal setbacks in place for non-participating landowners. We have no protection out here, so we are really kind of looking at you guys. I know zoning has a bad wrap and farmers don’t like it, but these are big players and I think we need to protect ourselves in whatever way we can. It’s a different day and a different game.”
City Commissioner Norm Schmitt encouraged those present to review the AG portion of zoning, to be sure they understand it.
Bergman pleaded with the commission for help.
“Please maximize the area you patrol,” he said. “Please help us as much as you can.”
After Wedel recognized that the majority of those present felt like the city should look into zoning, City Administrator Allen said the comprehensive plan will have to be changed first and it will have to be brought before the City Commission for a vote.
The Sabetha City Commission will meet Monday, Jan. 14, at City Hall.
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