It appeared the Reno County Planning Commission had support at Thursday’s meeting to extend the minimum setback on commercial wind turbines to 2,500 feet from a residence.
But for the lack of a motion.
Committee member Lisa French first raised the setback issue, saying she wanted to go back to a proposal that was made during the board’s Oct. 13 meeting to have alternate language for setbacks of 2,000 feet or four times the height of a tower, whichever was greater.
Board Chairman Russ Goertzen agreed, but then suggested setting the minimum setback at 2,500 feet or four times the height of the tower.
“I think we need to go stronger,” Goertzen said. “I was always in favor of a bigger setback, especially from the primary structure… I think it would help satisfy some property owners if we did go to a 2,500-foot setback.”
French and Commissioner Harley Macklin voiced support for keeping it at 2,000 feet and asked Goertzen to explain his reasoning.
“I know it’s probably pretty bold in what we’re asking with flicker and sound, but I think this would match with those,” he said. “All three play together more closely if we used a 2,500-foot measurement… To me, it’s about the non-participating. A participating landowner can always waive this to whatever they want. They can negotiate the setback to that.”
“Personally, my preference is to go to 2,500, but at least 2,000,” Commissioner Ken Jorns chimed in. “I don’t want to be less than the industry standard.”
Commissioner Ken Seltzer said he also supported at least 2,500.
“The thing we need to remember is these regulations are to protect the property interests of landowners in the zoned area,” he said. “It’s not necessary to go with what the wind farm industry standard is, which may not be sufficient… I agree with Russ’s logic on trying to keep setbacks along with shadow flicker and noise. We softened those from our initial draft. It would be more palatable if we go with a 2,500 minimum setback.”
It was French, however, who eventually made a motion, to set it at 2,000 feet or four times the tower’s height.
The motion passed 3-2, with Jorns joining French and Macklin.
Commissioner Bruce Buchanan was absent from the meeting and a seat vacated by Mary Lynn Baker has not been filed.
Seltzer also asked that the board revisit maximum sound levels, noting he’d done some research since the October meeting and learned that the proposed measure, known as Leq, was not a reliable measurement method for wind turbines.
Leq, or equivalent continuous sound, is a method used to measure sound levels that vary over time, resulting in a single decibel value that takes into account the total sound energy over the period.
“There’s an international standard for what the manufacturer uses to determine a guaranteed sound level for a particular turbine,” French said. “That information is given to a third party to model and determine the Leq for a specific location. They are two measures, which are used in different ways.”
Seltzer asked Vonachen to research it and “see if the language is correct” before the next meeting, which was set for 4:30 p.m., Dec. 17.
Jorn also asked to revisit the maximum sound level and “explain the rationale for going to 20 (decibels) when it was 30,” in a previous draft.
“We agreed to change that at the last meeting,” French said. “It was the industry standard.”
“I don’t’ recall that I agreed with that,” Jorns said.
“You may not have,” French said. “It was a split vote.”
The board will review the document at least once more next month, with “a clean copy” not marked up with changes before potentially voting to adopt it and send it to the Reno County Commission.
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