The final drafts of wind farm and wind turbine regulations for Boone County have been published ahead of a scheduled Planning and Zoning Commission discussion and vote Thursday night.
The commission has made some tweaks to its proposed rules for wind energy conversion overlay districts and for conditional use permits that would allow wind turbines in the county. Those changes came after a series of three public hearings when residents offered their feedback on an initial draft of rules that the commission put together over the course of 14 work sessions.
Work on the rules began as the alternative energy company RWE began working with landowners in the Harrisburg area to gain leases allowing wind turbines on their property. The company is interested in establishing a large-scale wind farm in northwestern Boone County and in neighboring Howard County.
There will be no opportunity for public comment at Thursday’s meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.
Among the minor changes in the final draft are:
- Reducing noise limits on the turbines from 60 decibels to 50 decibels during the day and 40 decibels at night.
- Basing measurements of the distance of wind turbines from easements on the edge of the turbine tower’s base rather than the center.
- Prohibiting a wind farm project from using financial expense as a reason to have power lines of 34,500 volts or less above ground. The proposed rules say all such power lines must be placed underground unless doing so would violate government or industry guidelines or the law.
- Requiring that all electrical equipment and transistors be built underground. The commission had previously proposed allowing wind farm developers to hide such equipment above ground by constructing it “in harmony with the surrounding landscape.” The wording was too subjective, Boone County Resource Management Director Bill Florea said. “There’s really no objective criteria.”
- Requiring that wind turbines be at least be 3,070 feet from any property that is on the National Register of Historic Places or is a National Historic Landmark.
- Removing a requirement that real estate agents provide an economic cost/benefit analysis and an assessment on the impact of wind turbines on surrounding property values. Florea said such analysis would be challenging and, after public comment, seemed redundant with other requirements already in the draft rules. Commissioners at a work meeting also noted that the county doesn’t require anyone else requesting zoning changes to provide that kind of analysis.
- Adding a requirement for fire suppression equipment to be provided at turbine sites.
The commission stuck with a primary height limit of 355 feet on wind turbines, although some could be up to 400 feet tall if wind patterns and topography make it necessary.
“A 355-foot tower is 10 times what’s currently allowed,” Florea said.
Property owners remain responsible for seeking zoning and permits for wind turbines. The Columbia Climate and Environment Commission complained about that in an April letter to the county, saying the responsibility should fall on the wind farm company.
Florea noted that the companies can still represent the property owners.
“It is the property owners’ land; it is their responsibility,” Florea said. “That doesn’t mean somebody else can’t carry the water for them.”
Proctor said she supports the rules as drafted.
“I feel that the commissioners and the staff have done an excellent job at trying to look at all angles of the land use for Boone County and make these proposed regulations as fair as we can, given all the information that we have compiled,” she said.
The Boone County Commission will have the final say on whether the wind farm rules are approved.
More information on the county’s wind farm rules is available on the Resource Management Department’s web page.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding