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County board to reconsider 1-mile rule between wind turbine and homes

The Lancaster County Board has delayed a decision on wind energy development rules for three weeks at the request of Commissioner Rick Vest.

During a Tuesday morning meeting, Vest asked for a reconsideration of last week’s vote to approve a 1-mile setback requirement between a wind turbine and the home of a nonparticipating property owner, someone not being paid to participate in the wind farm project.

Vest, who wants to find a compromise on the county setback rule, which at 1 mile is among the most stringent in the state, then asked the board to put the issue on the March 19 board agenda.

Opponents to a proposed wind farm in northern Lancaster County and southern Gage County asked for the 1-mile setback rule. Previous studies indicated a 1-mile setback would be needed to meet the county’s existing noise restrictions for wind energy projects.

Opponents, who have organized as Prairie Wind Watchers, also wanted to avoid visual pollution, seeing windmills from their yards.

A spokesman for NextEra Energy, the company developing the wind farm, told commissioners during a public hearing this month that the company might be able to meet the noise regulations at less than a 1-mile setback with the latest technology.

Vest said he had two priorities. He would not make any vote that would eliminate the opportunities for wind turbines in Lancaster County. But he also wanted to understand the impact on neighbors.

Vest said Tuesday he didn’t feel like the 1-mile decision, which he voted to approve last week, struck the best balance.

The county board will reconsider the issue at its March 19 meeting, including another public hearing.

The county board vote on the rules containing the 1-mile rule was 3-2, with Vest, Roma Amundson and Deb Schorr voting for the setback and Jennifer Brinkman and Sean Flowerday voting against it.