Gage County extends moratorium again, on wind farm permit applications

BEATRICE – Voicing some differences, the Gage County Board Wednesday voted 5-2 to extend a moratorium on wind energy permit applications through December 31st.

The move is designed to provide more time to work through the public hearing process and finalizing any potential changes.
But some officials say the moratorium, now more than a year old, has gone on too long. Board member Don Schuller would like to allow for project applications.

"I think they're doing a good job and it takes a lot of time. But, what issues do we face if we begin to accept permits?"

Both Schuller and Supervisor Gary Lytle opposed the moratorium extension.  "I have no issues with how planning and zoning is handling it, but I do believe as a board, we could handle it differently", Lytle said.

The Gage County Planning and Zoning Commission has a tentative public hearing date scheduled for July 22nd, pending completion of a review of regulations.
The commission met again Tuesday night, working on recommendations that would go to the county board. County Attorney Roger Harris urged supervisors not to pressure the commission, which was asked by supervisors to review regulations.

"They're working their tails off down there. This is something nobody wants to touch, because it is politically-charged. And, they're doing it, and they're doing it for this much money. They get paid nothing, and it takes away from their home life and their businesses. When you put pressure on them to hurry up, that's not helping."

There is concern that permit applications, if filed now, would be governed by current wind regulations as they go through the process….not any recommended changes yet to be finalized. Harris said commission members may be growing weary of criticism on the level of progress.

"If you want to keep them out, just pass a law that says there's no wind turbines in Gage County. I'm serious. I'll get some hate mail on this one, but we've dawdled on this all the way through....and we keep moving the goalposts or potentially moving the goalposts. There's a lot of leases already out there. There's people that have made decisions based on existing regulations."

The planning commission has also been wanting to make progress on regulations for solar energy…which the county currently does not have.