Eau Claire County does not have authority to adopt a development moratorium for a wind energy farm, its attorney said in a letter to a county committee.
The Eau Claire County Committee on Planning and Development received this information in a letter from corporation counsel Tim Sullivan during its regular meeting Tuesday night.
To spread awareness of the issue, the committee voted to bring that information to the Eau Claire County Board at next month’s meeting.
The Clear Creek Town Board approved an ordinance Nov. 11 to impose a one-year moratorium on issuance of land use or conditional use permits relating to construction of wind turbines.
The one-year time span would allow residents more time to gather information on the advantages and disadvantages of installing wind energy systems.
The town requested Eau Claire County consider a similar moratorium, but Sullivan concluded the county doesn’t have that authority.
The county’s lack of authority does not affect the town moratorium.
The town’s moratorium was passed in response to RWE Renewables Americas exploring the possibility of installing 40 to 70 wind turbines on about 20,000 acres of farmland in the towns of Clear Creek and Pleasant Valley in south central Eau Claire County. RWE officials have said they don’t foresee starting construction on the Eau Claire County project before 2023.
During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, five community members, Clear Creek town chairman Lotty Macik and County Board Supervisor Carl Anton spoke about the potential wind energy systems.
The community members expressed concerns about installing wind energy systems, saying more time is needed to conduct research and properly weigh potential negatives and positives. Many residents said they had spoken to other people around the country and heard their stories about the downsides of living near a wind turbine. Those potential issues include troubles with sound, light flicker, stray voltage and impacts on aesthetics.
Planning and Development Department Director Rod Eslinger presented information to the committee regarding wind energy regulations. Eslinger emphasized that RWE has not submitted an application yet.
Eslinger said county staff is working to figure out the best ways to follow state ordinances regarding wind energy regulations. That includes studying codes in other parts of the state like St. Croix County, which has a wind energy proposal in the town of Forest.
Regarding wind energy regulations, the county has the authority to add language regarding road limits; crossing and access permits for utilities; noise abatement ordinances; building permits; driveway access permits and culvert approval; and erosion and stormwater permitting.
Eslinger will bring the presentation to the county board next month and work with entities like the county Health Department and county Highway Department to gather more information.
“We’re trying to get educated just as much as the members of the community are,” Eslinger said.
The committee approved a conditional use permit request for a Native American horse racing and cultural event in the town of Union. After cancelling an event scheduled for this summer, the Extreme Thunder Indian Horse Relay Championships is slated for three days during August 2020 at Remington Ranch. The event would be the first of its kind in the area and would feature several races on a new half-mile dirt track. It would also include Native American cultural information and exhibits.
The county board’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 3.