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Gage County extends moratorium on turbine permits

Gage County’s ban on wind energy permits will continue for at least another six months.

The County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved extending the moratorium on permit applications for wind turbines that was initially passed in July.

The board now wants the Planning and Zoning Commission to take a closer look at the regulations before again accepting permits.

“The idea is to give planning and zoning a chance to look at anything else that they would want to discuss or go over, not to ban wind, but to look at other potential changes,” said County Board chairman Erich Tiemann. “I think there was a list of several things we asked them to look at two weeks ago.”

Halting the permit process in July was driven by a proposal from a group of Gage County landowners to amend wind regulations. That proposal was approved in September to increase setback requirements from nonparticipating residences from 3/8 to one mile.

Nonparticipating residents are those who do not have contracts in place with a wind company. Changes how decibel levels were calculated and who conducts testing were also included in the amendment.

The push for change was largely driven by a proposal from NextEra Energy Resources to build a wind farm in northern Gage County.

Special use permits for wind turbines will now be placed on hold until at least April 15.

Planning and Zoning director Lisa Wiegand said the process of reevaluating regulations moving forward could be another lengthy one.

“As far as a timeline, this will take some time to review,” she said. “There’s a lot of things specific to villages that we need to go back and tweak. However, there’s a lot of things that came out of the hearing process that people want us to look at, setbacks from property lines and things of that nature. It’s not just about studying wind. It’s a consistency among all the regulations of how you tweak one industry compared to livestock production, junk yards or anything.”