A final draft of proposed zoning rules for wind farms won the unanimous approval of the Boone County Planning & Zoning Commission on Thursday and will now go to the Boone County Commission for another public hearing and vote.
The commission voted to adopt the rules, which come as the alternative energy company RWE is acquiring leases from Boone County landowners near Harrisburg to erect wind turbines on their property. RWE hopes to establish a large-scale wind farm in northwest Boone County and neighboring Howard County.
“Thank you all staff for the phenomenal support to help us work through these very complex issues and arrive at a result that will serve the citizens of Boone County very well,” Planning & Zoning Chairperson Boyd Harris said.
The commission worked for months to assemble the proposed rules and held a series of public hearings in Columbia, Harrisburg and Ashland to gather input before it made several tweaks during work sessions earlier this spring. A previous Missourian story detailed the changes made.
“To continue to beat the horse, I think we listened to everyone we possibly could,” Harris said. “We’ve researched it. We’ve looked at different options. We’ve looked at existing facilities.”
The rules would require that a wind energy conversion overlay district be established for any area where a wind farm would be developed. Overlay districts are designed to allow uses on property that normally are not allowed under the property’s regular zoning, which does not change if an overlay district is approved.
Those interested in having wind turbines on their properties would have to seek conditional use permits for each one.
The commission decided that property owners, rather than wind farm companies, should be the people required to initiate a request for an overlay district, and they would be allowed only in areas zoned for agricultural or industrial use. Overlay districts would include both a primary district, in which wind turbines would be allowed, and a buffer area extending 1,320 feet outward from the boundaries of the primary district. That’s about a quarter mile.
Primary districts would have to be a minimum of 640 contiguous acres, which constitutes a “section” under the Public Land Survey System. Primary districts would not be allowed to split any quarter-section of property.
Applications for an overlay district would have to be signed by the owners of at least 75% of the property within the primary district and by at least 67% of the individual property owners within both the primary district and the buffer area.
Multiple assessments will be required evaluating the natural and biological impacts, visual impacts, soil erosion and water quality impacts, historical, cultural and archaeological impacts and transportation infrastructure impacts of adding wind turbines.
The accepted regulations will cap the height of wind turbines at 355 feet unless the applicant can make a case that a turbine up to 400 feet could more efficiently produce energy. The turbine sound as inspected by a qualified sound engineer can’t exceed 50 decibels during the day and 40 decibels at night.
The Wind Energy Conversion Overlay District regulations and the Conditional Use Permit final drafts can be found on the Boone County Government website.
“I think it’s right for Boone County, and my hope is that other counties can find things in it that can help them in their regulations as well,” Planning & Zoning secretary Michael Poehlman said.