Strict rules governing the development of wind farms in Boone County are being proposed by the Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission and will be the subject of three public hearings this month.
The hearings will be:
6:30 p.m. April 15 in the County Commission Chambers at the Boone County Government Center, 801 E. Walnut St.
6:30 p.m. April 20 in the gym at Harrisburg High School.
6:30 p.m. April 29 in the Central Office Board Room of Southern Boone County Schools, 5275 W. Red Tail Drive in Ashland.
The Planning and Zoning Commission worked for months to assemble the proposed rules, which would require that a wind energy conversion overlay district be established for any area where a wind farm would be developed. The draft regulations come as RWE Renewables considers whether to develop a wind farm near Harrisburg in northwestern Boone County and in neighboring Howard County.
Overlay districts are designed to allow uses on property that normally are not allowed under the property’s regular zoning, which does not change if an overlay district is approved.
Property owners would be required to initiate a request for an overlay district, and they would be allowed only in areas zoned for agricultural or industrial use. Overlay districts would include both a primary district, in which wind turbines would be allowed, and a buffer area extending 1,320 feet outward from the boundaries of the primary district. That’s about a quarter mile.
Primary districts would have to include a minimum of four contiguous one-quarter sections of land. A section comprises 640 acres under the Public Land Survey System. When any portion of a lot falls within a quarter-section of land, the entire quarter-section would have to be included.
Applications for an overlay district would have to be signed by the owners of at least 75% of the property within the primary district and by at least 67% of the individual property owners within both the primary district and the buffer area.
The draft rules also would require that the applicants provide extensive information about the location of homes and utilities in the area where the overlay is sought, as well as wind characteristics, traffic to and from turbine locations and visual simulations of how the turbines would look from homes within 1,000 feet and from several other vantage points.
Applicants would be required to estimate the amount of property, sales and other taxes the wind farm project would generate; the estimated construction costs that would be spent locally; the number of jobs the project would create; and what the impact would be on surrounding property values.
An environmental assessment would also be necessary and would include projected impact on wildlife and wildlife habitat in the area, the impact on flora, the amount of noise the wind turbines would create and the potential impacts of “shadow flicker” and hazards from turbine blades throwing off ice or other debris.
“Shadow flicker” occurs when turbine blades intermittently block the sun, casting on-and-off shadows on surrounding property.
Turbines would be restricted to 355 feet unless the applicant could show that a turbine up to 400 feet tall could improve energy efficiencies. Turbines would have to be set back 1,750 feet from all property lines and public road rights of way. Any lights on the turbines would have to be white during the day and red at night, and the turbines would have to be consistent in their design and a shade of white.
The Missourian reported in December that 13 landowners in Howard County with a total of 8,000 acres had signed contracts agreeing to lease land to RWE for wind turbines. The owners of about 3,000 acres in Boone County had signed similar contracts.
Howard County has no zoning regulations.