At a brief public hearing, the Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission heard public comments both for and against its proposed regulations on wind farms.
RWE Renewables has been eyeing land near Harrisburg in northwestern Boone County, as well as in neighboring Howard County, for a potential wind farm. The Planning and Zoning Commission has been working for months to develop regulations on how and where wind farms can be built.
Six people spoke at Thursday’s public hearing.
Columbia resident Jenna Higgins Rose spoke in favor of wind farms. As an environmental advocate, she said she supports using many types of energy, including wind, in what she calls an “all of the above” approach. For her, that also means adopting less restrictive policies.
“I know I would rather see my community, which has always leaned green, be a part of the solution rather than resisting change and trying to keep the status quo,” she said to the commission. “I think wind is an area we need to go and work toward, so I just want to urge you to adopt reasonable ordinances that will allow energy to be made locally and to benefit local economy, including ours.”
Opponents of building wind farms in the county have cited concerns about noise, disruption of views and other issues like “shadow flicker,” which occurs when a turbine’s blades intermittently block the sun.
Rex Smith of Harrisburg said he agrees that renewable energy is important, but he doesn’t think Boone County is the place for a wind farm.
“It doesn’t have to be here,” he said. “At least, not in my backyard for sure. I don’t want to step out and try to listen to the peep frogs at night and hear wind turbines. I think there are better places.”
The proposed regulations would require any property owner interested in building a commercial wind farm on their land to apply for a wind energy conversion overlay district and conditional use permits for any towers or accessory structures within that district.
Overlay districts are meant to add uses to a property that do not fall under its regular zoning regulations, while maintaining the original regulations. Overlay districts for the wind farms would only be allowed in areas zoned for industrial or agricultural use.
These districts comprise two parts: a primary district, where the turbines are built, and a buffer area, where no turbines can be built. Primary districts would be made up of four contiguous one-quarter sections of land composed of least 640 acres. Buffer areas would extend about a quarter mile from the primary district.
Once the overlay district was established, the interested property owner would need to get agreement from their neighbors. Owners of at least 75% of the total acreage of the primary district, along with 67% of the property owners in the district and 67% of the property owners in the buffer area would need to sign on.
With the necessary signatures, the interested property owner could then submit the application, complete with a computer generated visual simulation, economic cost benefit analysis, environmental assessment, descriptions of the turbines and a traffic plan.
There would also be fees to pay and approval standards the plan would need to meet. The county would take into account the potential impacts on natural resources, as well as noise management, visual disruptions and general safety of the turbines. The property owner would also need to prove financial security for the project.
In addition, interested parties would need to apply for a conditional use permit for each turbine. This would include information on the project owner, a detailed site plan, an environmental assessment, a detailed description of the turbine and a plan for site security.
The turbines would have to meet specific requirements as well. Along with being no taller than 335 feet unless the applicant can prove 400 feet would be more efficient, turbines would need to be more than 1,750 feet from any property lines or public road rights of way. They’d also have to be consistent design-wise, a shade of white and have lights that flash white during the day and red at night.
Thursday’s public hearing was the first of three. The next will take place at 6:30 p.m. April 20 in the gym at Harrisburg High School. The third will be at 6:30 p.m. April 29 in the Central Office Board Room of Southern Boone County Schools.
A full presentation detailing the proposed regulations is available on the Boone County Resource Management website, as are an FAQ on wind farms and copies of the overlay district and conditional use permit draft regulations.