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AURORA, Neb. – By a unanimous vote Monday, the Hamilton County Board rejected a plan for a wind power generation facility in the county.
All five board members voted to deny a conditional-use permit for the project. The permit was sought by Hamilton County Wind, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bluestem Energy Solutions.
Hamilton County Wind proposed building four GE 2.82 megawatt towers, which together would have produced a total of 11.28 megawatts.
Each tower would have been 292 feet tall. From the ground to the tip of the blade, the total height of each structure would have been 497 feet. “That’s pretty tall,” County Commission Chairman Rich Nelson said after Monday’s meeting.
The wind farm would have been built south and west of the Interstate 80-Highway 14 interchange.
As part of the motion that passed, the board created a moratorium on the building of wind turbines until county staff members can research the impact of wind farms on people’s health.
Board member Roger Nunnenkamp said he felt the burden was on Bluestem to show the wind farm wouldn’t be harmful to people’s health. “And I did not feel that they met the burden,” Nunnenkamp said after the meeting.
“Hamilton County this year approved a comprehensive plan and zoning regulations that included provisions for wind generation,” Nelson said after the meeting. “We said from the beginning that it was a living document, that changes could be made to that in the future. It just so happened that as soon as the zoning regulations were approved, the application appeared, and it was our first application to look at under those new regulations.”
More than 60 people attended Monday’s meeting, held in the District Court Courtroom at the Hamilton County Courthouse. When the board voted to deny the conditional-use permit, most of those people gave the board members a standing ovation.
On Dec. 9, the board devoted a public hearing to the subject at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds.
That hearing, which lasted three and a half hours, attracted a large crowd. “That included a few people for, a lot of people against,” Nelson said of those who testified.
Many of those opposed talked about potential health problems “and the impact that the wind generation could have on our citizens,” including those who live in the proximity, Nelson said.
Property values were the second-biggest concern. That subject was especially important for people who live near the potential site, Nelson said.
“And it just felt like at this point, the pros did not outweigh the challenges that it could present,” Nelson said.
Angie Joyce, an opponent of the wind farm, said after the meeting she was “totally relieved.”
She was thankful that the people of Hamilton County had been heard. “I just think it’s a great thing for Hamilton County to be protected,” she said.
The four towers would have been the first commercial wind turbines built in the county.
Half a mile is “too close to a home – any home,” Joyce said.
The initial proposal was for four towers. “It’s not just four, though. It’s never just four,” Joyce said.
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