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Boone County leaders schedule public hearings to discuss wind farm regulations

Boone County leaders have scheduled public hearings for wind farm regulations that could go into effect later this year.

The regulations create rules on how wind farm projects will be approved, operated and where they will be placed.

County leaders will discuss the drafted regulations during three meetings being held through the end of April. The first hearing will be held at the Boone County Government Center in downtown Columbia on Thursday.

Each of the Meetings is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.

The second public hearing will be held on April 20 in the Harrisburg High School gymnasium – the third will happen on the 29th and be held in the Southern Boone School District central office.

Boone County Resource Management Director Bill Florea said the rules will streamline the process of setting up the turbines.

“Business can sometimes move faster than government can react,” Florea said.

The drafted regulations come about two years after a wind farm project was first announced in northwestern Boone County.

In March 2019, German-based E.On began work on bringing a wind energy facility to Harrisburg. Two years in and the project is still in the development stage with only one test turbine erected.

E.On company spokesman Alexander Ihl said the company’s renewables business has since been transferred to another German-based company, RWE.

Matthew Tulis with RWE told ABC 17 that the company does not have a timeline for future construction at the Harrisburg site.

Some Boone Countians opposed to the wind farm formed a group in 2019 quickly after it was announced. Some homeowners in Harrisburg even set up signs against the wind turbines.

Boone County leaders started discussing wind turbine zoning in July 2019. During the initial proposal, the Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission considered having turbines setback 1,000-2,500 feet from a person’s property line.

Florea said there is not a set date when the regulations could be implemented. The resource management director said the process could take longer depending on how many questions are submitted during the public meetings.

Florea anticipates the regulations could be sent off to the planning and zoning commission by late May or early June with the county commission signing off on them soon thereafter.

Boone County Commissioner Janet Thompson said the new regulations would bolster the county’s current land-use guidelines.

“They don’t prohibit the development of wind farms in Boone County nor do they give landowners unfettered ability to have wind turbines erected on their land,” Thompson said.

She continued, “Instead, (the regulations) acknowledge the interest in alternative energy resources for communities, the impact on local transportation infrastructure in installing/maintaining/transitioning the turbines.”

If approved, landowners would first have to apply for an overlay district before being granted a conditional use permit for a wind turbine. Documents say the overlay districts will only be approved for land that is zoned for agriculture or industrial use.

Landowners need to include multiple project analyses for the application, according to the drafted regulations. Projects need to have a cost/benefit analysis, environmental assessment and other studies completed on the scope of the project before it can be approved.

Landowners may apply for wind turbine permits once the overlay district has been approved. The documents say each wind turbine needs its own conditional use permit.