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Edgar County declares a moratorium on wind farms

The Edgar County Board now has six months to make meaningful changes to an ordinance regarding the development of wind farms in the county.

Board members approved the moratorium, which stops applications, during the Wednesday, Nov. 25 meeting. The action does not prohibit the development of a wind farm in the county, but it does give county officials breathing space to create something that balances the freedom of a property owner to use ground as he/she sees fit and concerns by those opposed to wind turbines.

Most of the discussion on this topic occurred during the Monday, Nov. 23, study session.

“All we are hearing from are people that don’t like wind farms,” said board chairman Jeff Voigt. “There are counties that like their wind farm ordinances and having wind farms.”

Voigt added approximately 30 landowners have contacted him to state they want wind turbines on their property if that opportunity arises.

“There is no doubt a wind farm will eventually happen in northern Edgar County,” said board member Lisa Ellis. “So much of the land is not locally owned. I don’t have an answer. I just have a problem.”

One of the main discussions during the Monday meeting was what action the county can take to guarantee decommissioning funds are available in the future. The best course of action is not clear at this time.

Voigt and board member Andy Patrick want to avoid the county holding escrow funds because money deposited for that purpose may not be adequate 20 years, or more, in the future when a turbine needs demolished.

“I don’t want taxpayers getting stuck,” said Voigt.

Board member Karl Farnham Jr. advocated finding a way the county can intercede in any contract between a developer and landowner to be certain adequate safeguards exist for decommissioning.

That opened discussion to the Z-word, and nobody wanted to endorse zoning.

“I’m not advocating for this, but the simple answer is zoning,” said Voigt. “That gives the county a seat at the table between the landowner and company.”

Voigt expressed a personal preference to have decommissioning issues included as part of the land contract and tied to the property deed so that regardless of who owns the land or the power generating company a legal obligation to protect citizens exists in the future.

“With only six months, we’ve got to be very focused,” said Ellis.

As part of declaring a moratorium Wednesday, Voigt appointed a Wind Farm Ordinance Review Committee to work on issues of concern. The appointments were himself, departing county board member John Chittick and board member Lisa Ellis.

“These appointments are to get the committee off the ground. More people may be added later,” said Voigt.