The Crawford County Board of Supervisors and eight members of the public discussed wind turbines during the June 1 meeting.
The following is a heavily edited and condensed account of the lengthy meeting.
On April 27, the supervisors enacted a temporary moratorium on the construction of new wind turbine towers while the supervisors gather information to determine what changes they might make to the county ordinances that regulate the construction of wind turbine towers.
The moratorium will expire on July 1.
Joe Rosener, of Westside, said that another individual at the meeting had property that is devalued by noisy wind turbines and that nobody would want to live there in the future.
“We’re being forced to accept these things and then we can no longer sell our property if we feel living conditions are no longer acceptable,” said Aaron Kautzky, of Westside.
Kelly Riesberg, who lives south of Westside, said his portion of the family farm is disconnected from the rest.
“My aunt and uncle signed up for the (wind turbine) program,” he said. “There’s a possibility that a tower could be built closer to my property. I had no say in it.”
He said he was concerned about whether his children would have to live with wind turbines the rest of their lives if they choose to live in the area.
Kautzky asked if the supervisors would take decibel readings of wind towers in the name of good research.
Supervisor Ty Rosburg pointed out that readings would have to be taken of an existing wind tower (and not of ones that haven’t yet been built).
Rosburg noted that the company planning a wind turbine field south of Westside (Scout Clean Energy) has already invested millions in the project.
He said quality of life is important but the supervisors don’t want to make Crawford County look like a bad place for future investments.
He asked if Scout Clean Energy would fix a blade if it had something loose inside it that made more noise – as had been reported earlier in the meeting by a resident with wind turbines on her farm.
“I’m sure we would,” said Jim Rocca, of Omniroc, Inc., who works for Scout Clean Energy.
Rosener brought up a concern about how aerial crop spraying would take place near wind turbines.
“You get five hours on one day to do your spraying; that’s going to be some major logistics planning ahead,” said Christy Rickers, of Vail. “You can’t just turn it off on a whim.”
“Actually, we can,” Rocca said.
The company can shut down the wind turbines during a scheduled window of time, he said.
Rickers said that could change if rain starts or if the wind picks up.
Chairperson Jeri Vogt asked if the company knows where all the turbines will be located in the area south of Westside.
Rocca said the company is still signing up landowners; the layout will be determined when the landowner-signing period ends.
He said that once the preliminary sites are selected, the landowners will be given an opportunity to ask for adjustments in the locations.
The company wants to avoid lawsuits by making sure the locations work for the landowners, he said.
“Get it away from the people that don’t want it – and the people that do, bring it on,” Kautzky said. “Right now, we all get along in Crawford County … this wind turbine stuff is going to be a stake through the heart. I guarantee it.”
“We don’t want that,” said Supervisor Jean Heiden.
“A setback is a setback,” Vogt said. “If somebody wants to sign and have it closer to their house, we don’t have a problem with that.”
“When you signed your contract, you didn’t even know what questions to ask,” Heiden said to Rickers, who agreed.
The supervisors discussed purchasing a decibel meter to take readings of the noise from wind turbines.
“(You would be) taking a reading on a turbine we don’t even use,” said Michael McGill, Jr., a contract lease agent working with Scout Clean Energy on the project.
“We’re not saying you’re trying to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes, but the next outfit that comes through may be shadier,” said Supervisor Kyle Schultz.
Rosburg said the supervisors have to take into account the opinions of landowners, wind energy companies and taxpayers.
“We have to make sure we’re not forgetting anybody in the equation or this room will get a lot more full than it is right now,” he said.
Assistant County Attorney Martha Sibbel told the supervisors that she needed direction from the board about what they wanted her to put into a new ordinance.
“(In) the original ordinance I had drafted, we had looked at Duane (Zenk) being the enforcement officer and then looking at some sort of licensing fee to then pay for his services,” she said.
She said setbacks from a house or a property line would be easy to enforce, but using a decibel reading would require decisions about how it would be measured.
Sibbel asked if the supervisors also wanted to change the current wind tower tax rate, which is assessed at 30% of the value of the tower.
Heiden said the supervisors could revoke but not repeal the ordinance that set the assessment value.
Schultz suggested that the supervisors focus on the issues surrounding setbacks to stay on track with the end of the moratorium.
He asked the other supervisors to say what setback distance they preferred; his was 2,500 feet (which he said he might tweak after getting a decibel meter).
Supervisor Eric Skoog said his number was 2,500 feet plus.
Vogt and Heiden had the same number – 2,640 feet.
Rosburg said he wanted to start at 1,250 feet and go up from there, but not over 1,750 feet.
The Bulletin and Review asked Rocca if a setback of 2,300 feet would work for the proposed wind tower farm.
“With the stipulation you can negotiate; you can still work with landowners,” Schultz said.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to know (with) a 2,300 foot setback, we’d end up going someplace else,” Rocca said.
He said more than 200 landowners have already been signed up with an agreement for a setback of 1,320 feet.
Rocca said he didn’t want to have to defend wind farms built by other companies, and said he agreed that some of the complaints aired at the meeting seemed valid.
Scout Clean Energy has put up meteorological towers in the proposed wind turbine field area to collect data about wind velocity and direction, humidity and other parameters; the data will be used to model the decibel readings at every house near the project, he said.
He said Mark Wengierski, Scout Clean Energy director of development, planned to visit several of the supervisors last week and would attend today’s (June 8) supervisors meeting.
Rosburg asked if Wengierski could provide more information on decibel readings from the towers.
Rocca said Wengierski had a range of issues he wanted to discuss with the supervisors.
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