If the Madison County board of commissioners follows the recommendations made Thursday evening by the county’s joint planning commission, fees charged wind energy companies for conditional-use permits and towers will be toward the high end of a sample of counties that responded to a survey.
The county board asked the joint planning commissioners to make a recommendation for the fees. To get input, the joint planning commission directed the county’s zoning administrator to see what other counties were charging.
Heather McWhorter, the county’s zoning administrator, said six counties responded to the inquiry: Antelope, Knox, Kimball, Hamilton, Cass and Merrick.
The fees ranged from $10,000 for a wind conditional-use permit and $500 per tower in Antelope County to $350 for a wind conditional-use permit and $1,000 per tower in Kimball County.
Most solar fees were the regular conditional-use permit (generally around $100) to a high of $300 for the conditional-use permit.
McWhorter said solar fees are cheaper because it comes in on one permit and doesn’t require much more work than a typical conditional-use permit.
Wind permits, for example, have a lot more setbacks and each tower is on another site, which requires more labor, more setbacks and inspections.
The joint planning commission ended up voting 6-3 to charge $3,000 for a wind conditional-use permit and $1,000 per tower, and $130 for a solar conditional-use permit and $300 for a solar permit.
Voting in favor of that fee structure were Steve Abler, Joy Griffith, Merlin Milander, Stan Schapman, Jim Prauner and Zach Westerman. Voting against were Richard Grant, Merlin Oswald and Roger Acklie. Raymond Flood was not at the meeting.
McWhorter suggested the county go with $1,000 for a wind conditional-use permit and $300 per tower, along with the solar fees that were recommended.
Acklie said he thinks setting the fees that high might discourage wind energy in the county.
“Maybe that’s what you want to do,” Acklie said.
Prauner said there are higher fees in other counties, including Antelope County. That county still has attracted a lot of wind towers, he said.
McWhorter said the fees should not be used to encourage or discourage wind energy. What the fees should reflect is the amount of work it will take for the county to regulate the construction.
“I don’t know if it is $3,000 worth of work that we will put into the conditional-use process,” she said.
Milander said he doesn’t think $3,000 will discourage a wind energy company if it wants to build a wind farm.
So far, Emerick Wind and Invenergy Wind Development both have constructed “met towers” to collect data to see if Madison County might be suitable for a wind farm. The data will be collected for a few years before a decision is made on whether to proceed.
There also has been some interest expressed in commercial solar development in the county.
The recommendations on fee structures are expected to be considered by the county board in November. The county board has final authority on the fees.
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