BEATRICE – The Gage County Board has unanimously approved a resolution that sets a three-month moratorium on any new special use permits for wind farms.
That allows the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission to consider an amendment to county setbacks on wind towers, starting with a public meeting coming up July 30th, at the Beatrice High School Hevelone Center.
Attorneys for both wind developer NextEra Energy Resources and northern Gage County landowners opposed to a wind farm, differed on whether the resolution is legal.
Attorney David Levy represents the developer.
“Twenty three one fourteen point oh one is as clear as it can be. To change your zoning regulations, and that’s what you’re doing here, you’re changing your procedures for accepting applications for one particular land use. Which, by the way, that land use exists in your county today. And, the company wanting to file an application for that land use pays this county about $125,000 a year in property taxes. That aside, this proposed moratorium is illegal. It violates state law”.
The resolution approved reduces the moratorium from four months, to three months. The board previously voted to reject the four-month period, by 5-2. Attorney David Bargen represents Gage County landowners, who want to raise the county’s setback on wind turbines to one mile from residences.
“It is your authority. It’s your prerogative to look out for your constituents and the land use regulations they live under. The word moratorium sometimes trips people up. All your doing is saying publicly with this resolution….we as a county are going to pump the brakes. We’re going to back off for a minute. We’re going allow us some time to do our statutory duty to review our regulations and determine what is in the best interest of our public”.
Levy said the developer will participate in the process and is not opposed to a reasonable adjustment in the setback, or to consider wind tower height. But he said the one-mile setback is not acceptable.
Prior to the board’s vote on the resolution, Levy said the developer did not plan to file a special use permit application before the upcoming hearing.
“We will not file an application for a conditional use permit before the planning commission hearing on the 30th. We will let that part of the process play out, without any interference”.
County Board Chairman Erich Tiemann said the moratorium is not an indicator of the county’s position on a proposed wind farm.
“Allow the process to take place which has been on hold for quite some time. Three months is not a long amount of time when you consider how long this has gone, so far. We’ve asked the planning and zoning to come back to us with something, as quickly as possible”.
NextEra has been examining the potential for a wind farm in the Pickrell to Cortland area. County Supervisor John Hill said the county is going to be fair, in the process.
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