Packed house attends Jefferson County zoning meeting on wind energy regulations
Credit: Friday, January 13th 2023 | By Doug Kennedy | southeast.newschannelnebraska.com ~~
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Fairbury – About 130 people attended a Jefferson County Planning and Zoning meeting Thursday night, as officials continue to discuss proposed wind energy regulations.
NextEra Energy Resources wants permission to build a second wind farm in the county in the Jansen and Plymouth areas, with up to 90 wind turbines. Currently, Jefferson County has a moratorium on wind permits while regulations are finalized.
Local attorney Greg Kratz says the goal is coming up with a set of regulations that are equitable that protects the health, safety and welfare of residents.
“I believe it encourages discussion, cooperation among neighbors, among the wind company, landowners and residents … everyone in that affected area. I believe its a lot less restrictive than those rules that have been passed in other counties that have been passed in the last five years, but strong enough to protect the citizens and landowners, alike.”
Familiar concerns were expressed about wind turbine noise, shadow flicker, aesthetics and setbacks from homes, schools, churches and villages and whether those setbacks should be measured from a structure, or a property line.
Jefferson County is already home to the Steele Flats wind farm.a NextEra operation in the southeast part of the county. Company representative Matthew Jones says the farm has been there now, for ten years … and to his knowledge, no complaints have been received.
“I just want to bring the conversation back to what we have here in this community, rather than what we’re reading online. The concern that I have and what I’ve seen across many projects and communities I’ve worked in … if I read everything I’ve been hearing and if I really thought that was true, I would be concerned, as well. But, I think we’ve got an example here where we can ask people about everyone one of these items … about what it’s been like for these last ten years…and I think they’ll be able to tell you what the truth is … and what it is for them … their truth.”
Paul Shada is a 40-year resident of Plymouth and a local businessman. He feels wind farms impact property values because of the aesthetics of a project.
“The value is by what you see … how close you are to the water, if you can see mountain ranges … everything is valued by the aesthetics of what you see around you. That will change here in this area when these go up…it just will. It may be negligible at first, but eventually people will say, lets look for somewhere else where we don’t have to see that, everyday.”
Suzanne Heidemann farms west of Plymouth and does not have a lease with NextEra. Still, she is interested in development of the county, saying more economic development helps landowners as they pay property taxes. “I cannot understand how people that buy an acreage think that they have a right to dictate to farmers around them, what they see.”
Some people speaking at the zoning meeting encouraged residents to pay less attention to outside studies, and more attention to the county’s own experience in hosting a wind farm. David Henrichs has property in the Steele Flats project and said the presence of the turbines hasn’t hurt the property values of either land or acreages.
“There have been, that I can think of, three new homes built inside the windmill area since it was constructed, so people knew full well there were windmills there … and they built brand new houses or moved houses in. Has it affected the price of land … ag land? No. And, acreages, not at all … not in my opinion.”
Thursday night’s meeting was held in the Jefferson County District Courtroom at the courthouse and ended around 9:30. The next meeting will be January 26th where they will possibly decide on recommendations to the county board.
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