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Supervisors enact moratorium on new wind tower construction

The Crawford County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday enacted a temporary moratorium on the construction of new wind turbine towers in Crawford County.

The moratorium will sunset on July 1 if no other action is taken.

Supervisor Ty Rosburg said people had asked him about the moratorium, which was discussed at the board meeting last week.

“I said it just gives us some time to do our research on the setbacks and compare with other counties … (if the setback is) from property lines or foundations,” Rosburg said.

A setback of 1,000 feet from a home (Crawford County’s current requirement) would allow a wind turbine to be built almost on the property line of a five-acre parcel with a house on the opposite side, Rosburg said.

Rosburg said a setback of 2,640 feet (one-half mile) might sound like a lot, but the tower owner would “still have the ability to negotiate with the farmer or the tenant or whoever owns that place to get it closer.”

It might cost the tower owner more, but it’s a business agreement, he said.

“I don’t know if 2,640 (feet) is something we’d agree on but I use that as the example (when talking to individuals with questions about the moratorium),” he said.

He said individuals seem to understand when he explains that the tower owner could negotiate with adjoining property owners if the setback distance is increased.

Supervisor Jean Heiden pointed out that the moratorium is temporary.

“I thought it was prudent to do, with so much conversation about the encroachment with so many,” she said.

Heiden said she had not heard negative feedback about the moratorium.

“It also gives the wind towers (owners) and the farmers that wanted a tower time to come to us and say, ‘No, that’s way too much’ and give us their two cents’ worth,” Rosburg said.

“I think it’s crucial, especially if we’re creating a new ordinance, everybody should be heard.”

“To be fair, through all this we might just end up leaving it the way it is,” Supervisor Kyle Schultz said.

“We need more information,” Heiden said.

Vogt said she had explained to some individuals that the point is to protect the small-property landowners.

Schultz said it would give every taxpayer more of a voice.

Vogt said several people had called her and pointed out that the wind turbines add to the county’s tax base.

Supervisor Eric Skoog said wind towers are only taxed at 35% of their value – and that is only after taxes start at 5% and ramp up over seven years.

County Assessor Duane Zenk said the total amount of property taxes comes from all the towers in a wind turbine field.

He said the state set the property tax rate for wind turbine towers.

At the end of the discussion, the supervisors voted 5-0 to enact the moratorium, which took effect immediately, according to the resolution document.

The supervisors also voted 5-0 to adopt a change to the county’s zoning ordinance to address the decommissioning of wind turbine towers.

The amendment requires the builder to provide the anticipated life of the project, the estimated decommissioning cost in current dollars, how the estimate was determined, the manner in which the project will be decommissioned and a surety sufficient to cover the cost of decommissioning.