A process to update Gage County’s regulations for commercial wind energy that started around two years ago came to a close this week when the Board of Supervisors approved a set of wind regulations.
The process started when the Planning and Zoning Commission reevaluated the regulations before ultimately recommending a draft to the County Board, which then made its own changes to the document.
Most of those changes were proposed by board member Emily Haxby, who has spearheaded changes to the regulations this year, making them more restrictive.
Some of her changes that were approved included extending the setback requirement for commercial wind turbines from two times the height of the turbine to one mile from the property line of a nonparticipating landowner and lowering an allowance that turbines can exceed the maximum decibel level for a limited amount of time from five to three decibels.
“I appreciate everybody’s time on this,” Haxby said on Wednesday. “While I would have liked to see a few other changes, what we have today is the consensus of the board.”
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The full document of wind regulations approved on Wednesday will be available to view on Gage County’s website.
Nearly all of the changes made by the board resulted in more stringent regulations that would likely make it difficult for a wind farm to be established in most of the county.
“Some of the other stuff – and I’m not being critical, I’m just saying – we’re going overkill to make sure we never have wind turbines,” said County Attorney Roger Harris.
The regulations were approved 6-1, with Don Schuller voting in opposition. Schuller said the regulations are too restrictive and previously proposed having different separate regulations for the north and south parts of the county that would make turbines more feasible in the less-populated southern areas.
“These zoning regulations severely restrict the rights of private property landowners,” he said. “One small landowner can control activities on a property at a mile in all directions… We do not outlaw microwave ovens or cell phones despite warnings of health concerns. Well balanced zoning regulations may serve the county, however one portion of the county should not impose its fears on everyone.”
Fellow board members didn’t support his idea of separate regulations, though board member Gary Lytle added that conversations probably aren’t over.
“I do share a little bit of Don’s concerns as far as private property rights,” he said. “…I’m pretty sure this conversation isn’t done. I’m pretty sure it will be back. I’m pretty sure that this doesn’t finalize it, partly because we’ve gone so far this way now. That’s going to create conversation in the future.”