- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

County Commissioner Vest to seek reconsideration of strict wind energy rules

Lancaster County Commissioner Rick Vest says he will move to reconsider the vote to require a 1-mile setback for wind turbines during Tuesday’s County Board meeting.

Last week, the board approved an amendment to the county’s wind energy rules requiring a mile setback from a turbine to the home of a nonparticipating property owner, or someone not being paid to take part in the wind energy project. The new rule was considered the most stringent in the state.

Vest, a Democrat representing District 5 (northeast Lancaster County), was part of the slim majority that approved the mile setback but is now ready to change his vote and is looking for a compromise setback distance.

Deb Schorr and Roma Amundson voted with Vest on the mile setback. Commissioners Sean Flowerday and Jennifer Brinkman opposed the rule.

Vest said the County Board will vote to reconsider the previous vote on a mile setback Tuesday, but will table the setback decision until a later meeting when all commissioners are present. Schorr will not be at Tuesday’s meeting.

Vest’s goal in casting his vote for the mile setback a week ago was not to prevent the development of wind energy in Lancaster County, according to a news release.

Vest made what he felt to be the best decision based on the information he had at the time of the vote, the news release said.

At that meeting, Vest said he was voting for the mile setback because the developer did not indicate that a change in the rule would halt the project being considered for Lancaster County.

In recent conversations, Vest said he has been told the mile rule limits the developer’s flexibility and could mean the end of the project.

NextEra Energy has considered putting in a wind farm in southern Lancaster and northern Gage counties.

Vest said his goal from the beginning has been to allow for development of the wind energy project while providing as much protection as possible for those who don’t want turbines next door.

“I am trying to find that balance,” he said.

Vest said he thinks the setback should be somewhere between the mile distance and the current rule, which requires a minimum 1,000-foot setback but also has setbacks determined by the height of a turbine.

Vest said he hopes to explore a compromise that balances the concerns of nonparticipating residents while clearing the way for clean, renewable energy solutions for the county.

A bill (LB373) in the Legislature, proposed by Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, would require counties to have zoning regulations if they wish to host wind energy facilities, including preventing turbines within 3 miles of a residence without the property owner’s written permission.