Gage County officials are considering how to move forward with a request to amend its regulations related to wind energy.
The County Board of Supervisors discussed the proposed amendment Wednesday, which will be discussed by the Planning and Zoning Commission at a future meeting.
Larry Allder, representing Prairie Wind Watchers, attending the meeting to discuss the proposal that would increase setback requirements for wind turbines.
“We believe the wind regulations need to be updated,” he said. “When we first did this five years ago the (turbines) were 380 feet tall. Now they’re talking 500-600 feet turbines and our 3/8-setbacks are way too close.”
In addition to the setback restrictions, Allder said the amendment also changes how decibel levels are calculated. He said wording in the current regulations allows wind energy companies to conduct their own testing, which he thinks gives them an unfair advantage.
“Right now, the way they’re stated is like having the fox taking care of the hen house,” Allder said. “We’ve seen happen where the wind turbine companies came in with their testing people to test the sound and, of course, they passed.”
Wednesday’s discussion at the County Board meeting wasn’t regarding the specific amendments being proposed to wind regulations, but rather how to procedurally handle the request.
Gage County Planning and Zoning administrator Lisa Wiegand said she’s never been asked to amend a current regulation and was seeking guidance from the County Attorney’s office.
She said the issue being considered is if the Planning and Zoning Commission discusses the amendment, how will officials ensure all property owners involved are properly notified.
“I did start the preliminary process of how we notify all the potential people in Gage County because there’s a sizable amount of wind easements that we have been granted for Gage County,” she explained. “I need some type of direction as to how do we properly notify all of these people.
“Our standard procedure for a special use permit process is you have a designated area and send a direct letter to those landowners, whoever is being affected… We know there’s probably 200-plus landowners who have easements through the last 10 years.”
However county officials decide to move forward with notifying landowners of the potential changes being discussed, County Board member Matt Bauman said the process will not be a quick one.
“We’re opening up Pandora’s box here to go back and look at these,” he said. “I’m not for or against it at this point in the process. I’m just saying that’s what we’re looking at here. This will not be a quick process. It hasn’t been, it will not be. I would be surprised if this is done in 1 ½ years.”
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