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Wind-farm developer asking village to revise its formal protest

ROBERTS – The developer of a wind farm planned for the Roberts area of Ford County is asking the Roberts Village Board to revise a resolution it approved last month protesting some of the new rules for wind farms being considered by county officials.

Houston-based Pattern Energy Group, developer of the proposed Heritage Prairie Wind Farm, brought a company representative and an attorney to the Jan. 7 board meeting.

After a lengthy discussion, Pattern Energy Group’s James Madson said he would email suggested revisions to the board’s president, Rick Flessner, so that the board can discuss them during its next meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4, at Village Hall.

The village board voted last month to send the resolution to the county board. The resolution states that the village opposes changes to the county’s wind-farm ordinance that were proposed on Nov. 1 by the county’s zoning board of appeals – in particular, those related to setbacks and turbine height limitations. The proposed changes are now being considered by the 12-member county board.

Because of the village’s written protest, a super-majority of the county board – nine its 12 members – must vote in favor of the ordinance changes in order for them to be implemented, according to Ford County State’s Attorney Andrew Killian.

Some county board members have raised concerns that the super-majority requirement could hamstring the development of wind farms throughout Ford County, as the county board has been unable to get at least nine of its 12 members to agree on various aspects of the proposed ordinance changes.

Apparently, Pattern Energy is concerned about that possibility, too.

Flessner said he does not know what revisions Pattern Energy will ask the village to make to its previously approved written protest, but he said it is his understanding that the firm “wants us to make it so that there is not a need for a super-majority vote.”

Pattern Energy’s Madson did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.

Flessner said that when he does receive Pattern Energy’s proposal via email, he plans to hand-deliver it to the village’s trustees and the local news media so that everyone knows what is being suggested.

The resolution approved last month states that the village specifically opposes increasing the setback between turbines and primary structures, such as homes, to 1,800 feet, up from the 1,000 feet currently required. The village instead is requesting the county adopt a setback of at least 3,250 feet – and not from primary structures but from property lines.

The village also opposes allowing turbines as tall as 600 feet, requesting instead that the county keep the turbine height limit unchanged at 500 feet.

Like the village of Roberts, some rural residents – including a few county board members – have been pushing for a 3,250-foot setback from property lines, claiming that anything less than that distance could leave them at risk of the adverse health effects from the noise and shadow flicker wind turbines can create, as well as prevent them from using all of their land without fear of ice throws or blade throws from failed turbines.

“There are a number of questions to be answered concerning visual intrusion, noise levels, effects on wildlife and other animals, safety of citizens, television reception (and) decommissioning costs,” stated the village board’s Dec. 3 resolution.

The village has already established a zoning perimeter of 1.5 miles around the town’s corporate limits to regulate the construction of wind turbines in that specific area.

Other business
Also at the village board’s Jan. 7 meeting:

➜ Water department employee Paul Theesfield said 647,000 gallons of water were pumped in the village in December, up from 616,300 a month earlier.

➜ The board discussed a fine issued to a resident for the accumulation of trash by ordinance enforcement officer Janet Walker.

➜ The board discussed resident Ricky Ricketts’ request for the village to address drainage issues near his home at 131 E. Green St., across from the local bank. “He wants some relief from the village,” Flessner said. The village has hired engineer Jay Keigher to look into the problem and oversee any project pursued to correct it, Flessner said. The village has already ordered green dye tabs to use to locate the problem and plans to do exploratory trenching in the area, Flessner said. Will Gerber, Ricketts’ attorney, has been notified of the actions being taken, Flessner said.

➜ The board received Treasurer Kellie Kief’s official resignation, effective April 1. Kief has recommended the board appoint Morgan Behrens as her replacement.