SIOUX CITY – An increase to setback distances for commercial wind farms in Woodbury County is being considered after multiple complaints from citizens.
The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to move forward in amending a wind energy ordinance increasing the distance between wind turbines and county residents from the current 1,250 feet.
Supervisor Rocky De Witt proposed a 2,500 foot increase stating all of the supervisors have received numerous comments from citizens wanting the increase. De Witt said he has had zero people contact him in favor of keeping the current setback distances.
Supervisor Jeremy Taylor, who was not on the board during the original vote, said he has also received citizen comments, and is supportive of amending the wind ordinance.
In July 2021 the board approved a commercial wind farm ordinance that created protections for citizens including setback distances from public and private property and safety rules for secondary roads.
Prior to the creation of this ordinance, the county had a zoning ordinance that allowed wind energy in agricultural preservation and general industrial zones. The ordinance approved in 2021 only impacted commercial wind energy development.
When the ordinance was first proposed the setback distance was 600 feet, but after listening to Woodbury County resident concerns the distance was increased to 1,250 feet.
At the time, 2,500 feet was considered, but a map generated by the economic development department showed that it would severely limit the possibility of wind energy in Woodbury County.
Chair Keith Radig said he is not supportive of amending the ordinance because it would “all but eliminate wind in Woodbury County.”
“I don’t think that is within our job description,” he said.
Daniel Hair of Hornick said Woodbury County is densely populated and 2,500 feet should be the minimum setback. He said the National Wind Coordinating Committee recommends a setback of a half mile – 2,640 feet – from a residence.
“There’s a time and a place for wind. If it wont fit in Woodbury County with a 2,500 foot setback it’s just not meant to be here,” he said.
Woodbury County Engineer Mark Nahra said he originally proposed 1,600 feet setback from occupied residences. He suggested the board look at all of the setback distances, not just between the town and occupied residences.
The full setback distances in the ordinance are:
– 110 percent of total height from adjacent property lines, unoccupied residences, confinement feeding operation building, public road right-of-way and public conservation areas;
– 1,250 feet from occupied residences;
– 600 feet from cemetery or city limits and;
– 110 percent of total height from adjacent property lines, unoccupied non-residential buildings and confinement feeding operations buildings.
Because the ordinance was discussed and approved a year ago, Supervisor Matthew Ung asked why it is coming up again now.
Mark Nelson of Correctionville said he attended the meetings in 2021. He said many who attended were not happy with the 1,250 setback distance. Now, he said MidAmerican Energy is calling residents and handing out maps of where commercial wind turbines can be built in the county.
“I’m not trying to stop anybody from building a turbine, I’m not trying to stop Woodbury County. My concern is we know for a fact that at 1,250 feet people in their homes will constantly hear these things,” he said.
De Witt and Taylor wanted the motion to specify a setback distance of 2,500 feet. Auditor Pat Gill said the motion would restrict what the board was able to consider in the ordinance process and wouldn’t allow them to discuss the other setback distances, such as from property lines and unoccupied residences.
Radig proposed a less specific motion to “reconsider the wind turbine ordinance” and allow more discussion on specific setbacks, but was unable to proceed due to De Witt and Taylor’s motion.
It is currently unknown when the ordinance will return to the Board of Supervisors’ agenda. The ordinance will have to go through a full three reading amendment process.
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