The first draft of an updated proposed wind ordinance for Morgan County has been posted to the county’s website and will be open to public comment for 30 days.
Brad Zeller, chairman of the Morgan County Board of Commissioners, said Monday that the board would like people to review and comment on the proposal before the board takes action on it next month.
“I believe it’s a strong document,” he said. “It was written in the spirit of protecting all residents of Morgan County – leaseholders and non-leaseholders alike.”
The ordinance was drafted after several citizens raised concerns about the current ordinance, which was written in 2009 and had a set back of 1,000 feet from the foundation of a home.
After concerns that those setbacks were not enough and imposed on the property rights of non-participating residents, the board voted to have a new ordinance drafted.
Zeller said the current draft increases setbacks, included a complaint process, requirements for the control of flicker, lighting, agricultural mitigation, as well as requirements for the decommissioning process.
“It addresses a lot of the concerns, not all of them, but a lot of them,” Zeller said.
The setbacks for participating landowners is 1,320 feet from the foundation of the home, while it is increased to 1,500 feet from the foundation of a home of a non-participating landowner. The setback also include distance of one and one-tenth times the WECS Tower Height from public roads, third party above ground utility and other transmission lines, and communication towers, as well as adjacent property lines.
Two companies, Apex Clean Energy and E.ON, have been working with county landowners to develop potential sites for between 80 and 120 wind turbines in the eastern portion of the county.
The ordinance was drafted by Michael T. Jurusik and Sheryl H. Churney of Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins Ltd., which was contracted by the county board to advise them on the ordinance language.
And while some believe the ordinance is a step in the right direction, some feel it still isn’t enough to properly protect the rights of non-participating landowners.
Mike Woodyard, the administrator for the group Ad Hoc Citizens Committee for Property Rights, said that while the ordinance draft has a lot of good things that it didn’t have before, such as the limitations for noise, flicker and agricultural impact mitigation, the setbacks still leave property owners not participating in the project without protection.
“My position has always been that there is a happy medium somewhere where the project can go through, but not impose on the property rights of a non-participating land owner,” Woodyard said. “The ordinance is certainly improved, but it still isn’t enough and the setbacks remain the main issue.”
Woodyard said the setbacks increased by 500 feet, but the ordinance also increased the height limits of the turbines to 600 feet.
According to him, a half mile would be adequate setback and the ordinance needs to start the setbacks from the property lines, not the foundation of a home.
“I can understand that my neighbor has the right to have one of these built, but his rights end at his property line,” Woodyard said. “He doesn’t have the right to destroy my home value.”
Woodyard said he plans to continue to advocate for higher setbacks and the change to property lines, instead of foundation over the next 30 days.
Zeller said after the 30-day comment period, the board will discuss the ordinance and the feedback during a meeting, but will not take action on it until a second meeting.
At the time, the board will vote to pass or fail the ordinance. Zeller said the board votes to fail the ordinance, the current ordinance could remain in place or the commissioners could decide to continue working on the drafted ordinance, but Zeller said that decision will not take place until after the board votes.
Helen Humphreys, a spokeswoman for Apex Clean Energy, said the team working on the project has received the ordinance and is reviewing it, but could not make any further comment. A representative from E.ON could not be reached Monday.
The ordinance is available on the county website or at the Morgan County clerk’s office. Comments will be accepted through email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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