NEBRASKA CITY – Otoe County commissioners appeased an overflowing crowd Tuesday with passage of a one-year moratorium on accepting applications for wind turbine permits.
The action comes after the Federal Aviation Administration began an impact study on a proposed wind farm between Panama in Lancaster County and Douglas in Otoe County. The proposal includes 18 to 56 turbines with a height up to 650 feet, which is nearly twice as a high as the 362-foot Nebraska Capitol building.
Krista Kester of rural Douglas said the noise, visual blight and lower land values she expects with proposed wind farm would be devastating to the countryside where her family built a house about 20 years ago.
Kester: “It would just be wholly inconsistent with what this developed area is about. For us, I spend virtually all my time when the weather is permitting outside, I mean I’m an outside gal, that’s just what I am and the notion of that being gone was, you know, really disturbing.”
Crop duster Chad Walvoord said he values the extra time the commissioners are granting to think through the county’s wind farm regulations.
Walvoord: “These wind turbines are never in straight lines and for me to be flying 150 mph, eight feet off of the ground in wind turbines, which are obstacles in the fields that are moving, it’s playing Russian Roulette with your life.”
Travis Filing, the mayor of Panama, is running for Lancaster County Board with his sites on the county’s wind turbine regulations.
Filing: “We need to stop these wind farms. These wind farms are a massive problem. They are causing property values to crush. They are causing illness. They are causing problems with livestock.”
He said 56 towers are proposed between Panama and Douglas from south of Bennet to north of Adams.
Filing: “The county commissioners in Lancaster County have rolled back the setbacks from a mile to 2,200 feet, or three and a half times the height of a wind farm, so they have made it much easier for these wind farms to come in.”
Otoe County’s regulations currently require a wind turbine to be 1,300 feet from a residence and 600 feet from a road right-of-way. The sound decibels are limited to 50 decibels at that distance.
Zoning Administrator Dave Schmitz said he visited windmill sites when working on the regulations, but never saw units with 200 to 300-foot blades and a turning radius of 600 feet.
Otoe County Attorney Jennifer Panko Rahe said the moratorium will give the county a chance to evaluate its ordinances based on up-to-date technology.
Two county commissioners, including Jim Thurman of Nebraska City, were authorized Tuesday to attend the 7 p.m. Planning Commission meeting on May 19th at the Syracuse library.
DeAnna Moore of rural Palmyra said residents are swiftly coming together in opposition after learning of the proposed wind farm.
Moore: “As we continue to talk with more people, we’re learning more about how they feel. Some of them don’t agree with the length of the contract, some of them don’t agree with how close the wind turbines will be to homes, some people are opposed to wind energy in general.”
The energy company has scheduled a May 11 meeting at the fairgrounds in Syracuse.
Gage County approved stricter regulations in 2021 that include setbacks from residences as far as a mile.
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