Gage County is one step closer to adopting a set of new regulations for commercial wind energy generation.
The Board of Supervisors discussed the latest draft of the regulations on Wednesday, where two additional changes were proposed. Both were suggested by board member Emily Haxby, who has spearheaded changes to the regulations this year, making them more restrictive.
One of the changes suggested Wednesday was approved by the board, to lower an allowance that turbines can exceed the maximum decibel level for a limited amount of time.
“If we’re saying it’s going to be 40 decibels or less at day, 37 or less at night, for 10 minutes this is what we’re going to allow it to be louder than that level,” explained board chairman Erich Tiemann. “This is only for peak times.”
The board voted to lower that maximum allowance from five to three decibels with a narrow vote of 4-3, with board members Eddie Dorn, Dennis Byars, Haxby and Tiemann in favor.
Board member Terry Jurgens opposed the change, saying the current five decibels is a small increase even at short distances and the change isn’t needed under the proposal, which also calls for increased setback requirements from property lines of non-participating landowners, those who don’t have agreements with wind energy companies.
“Going back to my location, I have one ⅜ mile from our shop,” Jurgens said. “If the wind direction is coming at you, you can hear it, but it’s minute. What I’m saying right now is louder than what that noise is on these towers that are up right now. We’re looking at a mile setback and a three mile setback in lots of cases, you would never hear it.”
Haxby also proposed that nonfunctioning structures must be removed within three years. That motion failed with Haxby, Dorn and Byars voting in favor.
The board discussed wind regulations at length during a September meeting and made several changes, most making the regulations more restrictive. The regulations are currently a draft, and the board is expected to vote on formally adopting them at its next meeting on Nov 17.
While the regulations are becoming more restrictive, board member Don Schuller suggested Gage County should have separate regulations for the north and south parts of the county.
“In my opinion, these amendments just further restrict wind regulation so that we will never have a wind farm in the entire county as it is set up today,” he said. “That’s why I’d say the south half of the county needs to have different zoning. I understand the reasoning behind the north half but this is for the entire county at the present time. I feel that we need to have separate zoning for the south half.”
Board member Erich Tiemann pointed out that while the proposed regulations are more restrictive, participating landowners working with wind energy companies are free to reach their own agreements.
“Even though these are more restrictive, If an area is in favor of these it would for lack of a better term, spread the wealth,” he said. “They would have to go around and get more contracts with more people. They are more restrictive. If an area is really in favor of that though, they can still come into an area and get landowners to sign off on this.”
Previous changes made to the draft include extending the setback requirement for commercial wind turbines from two times the height of the turbine to one mile from the property line of a nonparticipating landowner.
Some board members supported voting to adopt the draft on Wednesday, though it was ultimately decided to wait two weeks to allow the county attorney’s office an opportunity to examine it first for any additional changes that may be necessary.
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