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Gage County approves moratorium on wind, solar permits

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Odell wind farm

In this file photo, turbines collect wind energy near Odell. 

Gage County will not accept permits for wind or solar projects after a new moratorium was put in place Wednesday by the Gage County Board of Supervisors.

The board last approved a moratorium in January that’s set to expire July 15. It was initially put in place more than a year ago, and was extended this week to last through the end of 2021 as the planning and zoning commissions reevaluates the county’s regulation.

“The end of the current moratorium is coming up,” said County Board Chairman Erich Tiemann. “We won’t have the intended things done yet by the end of the moratorium so this would put a moratorium on wind and solar through Dec. 31."

Planning and zoning has had numerous discussions regarding revisions to the wind regulations in Gage County. A public hearing is tentatively planned for July 22.

Following the public hearing, the commission would make a formal recommendation to the County Board, which would hold its own hearing before a final decision is reached.

The motion to extend a moratorium was passed 5-2, with board members Don Schuller and Gary Lytle voting in opposition.

“I feel like this is taking a long time and discussion wouldn’t end even if we discontinued the moratorium,” Schuller said. “We could begin accepting permit applications. I feel like the moratorium doesn’t need to be extended any longer.”

Lytle added that if a moratorium was put in place, it’s excessive to do so until the end of the year.

“At the very least it shouldn’t be until Dec. 31,” he said. “It should be a shorter time period. We need to get this done.”

Halting the permit process was initially driven by a proposal from a group of Gage County landowners to amend wind regulations. That proposal was approved last September to increase setback requirements from nonparticipating residences from 3/8 to one mile.

Nonparticipating residents are those who do not have contracts in place with a wind company. Changes how decibel levels were calculated and who conducts testing were also included in the amendment.

The push for change was largely driven by a proposal from NextEra Energy Resources to build a wind farm in northern Gage County.

Now, officials are continuing to look at regulations, including details in how setback requirements are calculated.

In other business:

* A liquor license was approved for a beer garden at the Gage County Fair from July 28-31. Fair organizers said proceeds from the beer garden allow the fair to be a free-admission event.

* The board is expected to consider a resolution at its next meeting regarding a Kansas Nebraska Heritage Plan that has been met with opposition from some members concerned it would infringe on property rights.

* The board approved a bid from Straight Line Striping out of Grand Island for a 33.9 mile project in Gage County. The highway striping contract was for $40,809.

* A special use permit was approved for a temporary asphalt plant in Paddock Township.

* Additional contracts were reached to continue the drug court program at a cost of $7,160 to the county, and also to extend the EMS service agreement for another year.

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