The Gage County Board’s vote on tighter wind energy rules may make it practically difficult for a wind power developer to build a wind farm in the county’s northern half.
Supervisor Emily Haxby made many revisions to the county’s planning and zoning commission’s draft recommendations, which were recently sent to the board. Setting a one-mile setback from non-participating entities for wind turbines, as well as a three-mile setback from villages, churches, and schools, are two examples. A one-mile buffer from any federal, state, or local recreation sites was advised.
Haxby, who does represent constituents opposed to wind development in northern Gage County, handed out a list of proposed changes, which the board debated for over three hours.
“I spent much too many hours working on this document which I’m currently passing around. Some of the adjustments were procedural, consistency changes, or to better protect our residents’ health, safety, and welfare, as well as our county’s economic future.”
The board rejected some proposed changes to the regulations, but others were approved and will be made reference to the county attorney’s office for review. After that, a new draft would be presented to the board for final confirmation at a later meeting. Gary Lytle, a board member, spoke out in favor of the legal counsel study.
“Without legal counsel’s response as to what repercussions this brings by implementing this putting this in there, I’m not sure I’m comfortable voting to change this, incorporate any of this. I don’t think it would be a problem, but there are always unforeseen effects, and I’d like to know if there are any before we do anything.”
The county’s planning panel studied wind restrictions for several months, suggesting a one-mile buffer in an amendment requested by wind farm opponents that county supervisors eventually adopted. Establishing the one-mile pushback from the property border, not a residence, was a critical provision, according to Haxby.
“This is, in my opinion, the most significant document in the entire package. It’s trespass regulation in the sense that what one can accomplish on property B is affected by what one can accomplish on property A.”
According to Supervisor Don Schuller, the one-mile limit from the property border implies no wind development is probable. “If you want to build a tower a mile from a property border, you’ll need a landowner who does own four sections and can put it in the center of such four parts….not a quarter, a section. You could just as easily eliminate….or say, “We’re not going to permit wind towers in the Gage County. ” Schuller advocates regulating the county differently in the south and north, depending on population density as well as support for wind growth. The impact of three-mile setbacks proposed in some of the proposals was discussed by Lisa Wiegand, a Lytle and Planning Commission Administrator.