A visit to a wind farm spurred questions to the viability of the half-mile setback determined by the Burt County Planning Commission.
Rodney Bromm, planning commission chairman, and David Six, Burt County zoning administrator, met with the Board of Supervisors on Friday at their regular meeting to provide updates on their recommendations for updates to the Burt County Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Regulations.
Bromm said they used the comprehensive plan as a base and went from there to work with the zoning regulations.
“The main changes we made was to livestock setbacks, which was consistent with comprehensive plan and the state and closer to the other counties around us,” Bromm said.
Bromm told the board the setbacks for solar did not have any changes.
“We looked at the setbacks to change them for the wind,” he said. “We were at 1,000 feet if I remember correctly and we increased that to 1,500 feet up to 500-foot total height and after that we went to a half mile. Those were numbers that seemed in line with the talks we had lately about the big windmills. We thought we needed a bigger setback.”
Bromm, Six, Paul Richards and Clayton Olsen, took a trip to Wayne and Dixon counties and looked at two different wind farms.
“We drove right up to them, got back to 1,500 feet and looked at the setbacks we have,” Bromm said. “We had a good tour, talking to a farmer who farmed around all of them. We went to another wind farm and talked to the general manager. He was familiar with 650-foot towers. A company is going to build some of them in Wilbur.”
Bromm said he has never been around wind farms or turbines.
“I didn’t know about the noise and vibrations that you read about,” he said. “After experiencing standing there, the noise with the pickup was louder than the windmill. That was just on one day with 10 to 15 miles per hour.”
Bromm learned more about the economic benefit to the county.
“There’s the personal property tax, plus the payment to the farmers and with these, the close landowners get paid,” he said. “One guy we visited had one windmill with a couple wires that went across and he was receiving about $20,000 per year.”
He told the board of other benefits.
“There are a lot of jobs for a short time and this windfarm still employed several people just for the maintenance portion of it,” he said. “It’s jobs and it’s good. If the county is looking at this, which I think we should, I almost think that half-mile setback on these big ones is too much.”
Bromm said the board voted on it but after being there and seeing this, and talking especially with the foreman on this job, there’s no difference in noise between the sizes.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of going to look and see,” he said. “I do feel it’s important for anyone to visit these. No matter what we are working on, you cannot make a good decision without visiting in person.”
The board suggested a visit to the neighbors who aren’t getting paid for these windmills.
“I don’t want to base my whole decision on this one trip,” Bromm said. “We had talked about going over to Iowa and I think we need to do some more investigating.”
Six told the board there were no zoning regs in either county they visited. “The company had no one to tell them or make demands. They were using 2000-foot setbacks,” he said. “This conversation we have had here has been between 50 and 70 decibels. That is the same or more than what I read within five feet of a wind turbine. That gives you an estimate of the sound level we are talking about.”
Bromm said it’s a little bit of a game changer for a windfarm coming in. “I’m not sure we need the setback at that half-mile,” he said.
Chairman David Schold said the board will not have a public hearing until the changes are written showing the old and new language. Schold wants to put it on the website so that the public has all the options and opportunity to read the document. “We want the public to see it for as much time as we have,” Schold said.
Six will write up the changes and a public hearing will be scheduled in the future.
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