Boone County wind farm regulations face vote this week
Credit: By Ellie Marshall | Columbia Missourian | Nov 2, 2021 | www.columbiamissourian.com ~~
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After over two years in the making, regulations on wind farms could be put in place in Boone County.
The regulations are expected to be voted on by the Boone County Commission at its Thursday meeting.
There have been several changes to the original draft that was passed by the county Planning and Zoning Commission in June. The newest draft includes changes in definitions, intent and purpose; visual impact assessment; visual impacts; and abandonment.
“The changes are the result of public comment received by the county commission, at public hearings and in written form and staff research,” said Bill Florea, the county’s director of resource management.
“In my opinion, this is a set of regulations that enables wind farms to be applied for and potentially developed in Boone County but within the context of the geographic and social values of the county,” Florea said.
The topic of wind farms in Boone County has been heavily debated. Multiple public hearings were held around the county to hear community members’ thoughts.
“The public has had a ton of opportunities to speak, both pro and con,” said District II Commissioner Janet Thompson. “It’s been a long process, but it’s been a good process.”
“We’re very fortunate we’ve had excellent folks in our Resource Management Department that have listened to all of that, and then collated all of the information to make adjustments,” she said.
Still, some believe the proposed regulations are too restrictive.
One group that has been outspoken about this is Renew Missouri, a 501©(3) nonprofit committed to ensure accessible clean energy for all Missourians.
“What is being proposed is nothing short of a wind farm ban,” said James Owen, executive director of Renew Missouri.
According to Owen, the three main areas that make these ordinances a ban are the requirement to distance turbines away from property lines, the requirement to gather signatures from property owners near potential wind farms and the height requirements.
“The ordinances are so restrictive that they operate as a ban,” Owen said. “As an example, the analysis done by the county does not indicate whether more than one turbine could be installed per identified site.
“Minutes from P&Z meetings include discussion that siting a single wind turbine would require a property to have nearly 500 acres. A commercial wind farm cannot be built if regulations require each turbine to have such a large amount of space. Even setting aside other problematic provisions, the setbacks alone in the proposed regulations prohibit commercial wind development in the county.
“Renew Missouri has presented Boone County with suggestions on how these ordinances can be made more reasonable,” he added. “Those have been ignored.”
Despite this, Owen does believe in some type of regulation.
“I want to be clear: Renew Missouri does not oppose wind regulations,” he said. “We support reasonable regulations. As does the wind farm industry. That is not what these do.”
Proponents of wind farms, like Owen, believe there are more benefits to wind farms than only producing clean energy.
“The land where these wind turbines can go are going to see additional income,” Owen said. “That’s the great thing about wind turbines, right? Like, cattle can still graze there, crops can still be raised, and this is just extra money.”
In addition, he noted that wind farms are taxed at a higher level than regular farmland.
“The revenue that comes from property taxes goes to schools, goes to roads, goes to infrastructure,” Owen said. “That is money that goes into our community.”
The wind farm industry would also bring more jobs to Boone County, according to Owen.
“Wind technician is one of the fastest-growing jobs in the country. It’s one of the fastest-growing jobs in the state. That’s a source of stability for jobs in this area,” said Owen.
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