SIOUX CITY – Woodbury County officials have been working for the last year to create a more comprehensive wind energy ordinance.
During the Tuesday night Board of Supervisors meeting, a public hearing was held to discuss just such a proposed ordinance.
The current zoning ordinance allows wind energy in agricultural preservation and general industrial zones, said David Gleiser, director of rural economic development.
Within the current ordinance, those interested in constructing a wind turbine on a piece of property would fill out a proposal and pay $250. An abstract of the project is sent to property owners within 500 feet as a public notice and the proposal is reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The last step is that a recommendation is sent to the Board of Adjustment.
“The board of adjustment ultimately has the decision,” Gleiser said.
Gleiser said the current zoning ordinance does not provide protections and assurances for private and public property.
Some of the vulnerabilities in the current ordinance include:
– Insufficient setback distances to protect individual or public property;
– No recourse for damages to secondary roads network;
– No protections for the Loess Hills;
– No assurances for the removal of decommissioned wind turbines;
– Current fees collected do not offset the time and resources expended to process review.
The proposed ordinance addresses all of the vulnerabilities. Instead of being a zoning ordinance, it would now be a standalone ordinance, putting the decision in the Board of Supervisors’ hands.
The proposed setback distances are:
– 600 feet or 110 percent of total height from occupied residences, public road right-of-way and public conservation areas;
– 600 feet from cemetery or city limits;
– 110 percent of total height from adjacent property lines, unoccupied non-residential buildings and confinement feeding operations buildings;
– One mile from the Loess Hills.
Graham McGaffin, The Nature Conservancy of Iowa’s associate director of conservation and Loess Hills programs, said the Loess Hills is an internationally significant area. There is only one other place in the world like the Loess Hills, and it’s in China.
He said it is more important then ever to protect the area.
Randy Wagner of Wayne, Nebraska, spoke to the board about his experiences with windmills near his home.
He lives in the center of around 230 wind turbines. In 2016 he was contacted by a company that wanted to put a turbine on his property. At the time, the company said a setback distance of 1,500 feet was enough to not hear it.
He considered it, but found out turbines negatively impact home value in a two-mile radius and decided against it.
Now he said there are 20 turbines in a two-mile radius of his home and four within a mile. He said the noise is irritable.
Wagner recommended having a minimum of a mile setback distance from a home.
Gleiser expects there will be additional changes throughout the next few weeks.
Supervisor Matthew Ung said the proposed ordinance creates a more public and transparent process while protecting the Loess Hills. The board approved the first reading.
The next two hearings are 4:45 p.m. on June 29 and 4:45 p.m. on July 6, all in the Board of Supervisors meeting room in the basement of the courthouse.
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