Gage County Planning Commission recommends further wind energy requirements

BEATRICE - The Gage County Planning Commission is recommending additional requirements on wind developers, following a 90-minute public hearing, Thursday night. The commission heard from those who object to a wind farm in northern Gage County. No testimony was given by wind development supporters or wind energy companies, themselves.

Gage County has a moratorium in place on wind energy permit applications, which currently extends through the end of this year.
Although the county adopted a one-mile setback for non-participating homes from wind turbines…some residents urged that the measurement be taken from the property line. Christine Boone is a rural Pickrell resident.

"We feel this change is really essential in order for us to treat all property owners fairly and equally under our laws and regulations in Gage County. As it exists now, if a residence exists on a non-participating property, then there's a setback of one mile to a turbine. But, those who purchase a property and then desire to build a residence on that property, have no guarantee of the setback for the wind turbine, depending on where it is located and where they wish to build their residence."

Jamie Pospichal, of rural Cortland urged the commission to adopt science-based wind noise restrictions that were recommended by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.

"We all know that earlier this year the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners made adjustments to their noise regulations. I'm going to emphasize this was against the advice of the health department. This vote was against available research and it was against the vote of experts. I realize that you've been told that since the one-mile setback was established, changed noise regulations isn't needed. I would question if that advice is based on a true understanding of how noise travels."

One man associated with a group supporting the Homestead National Historical Park…Don Ferneding, of Beatrice, urged protection of the so-called viewshed of the Homestead….for which the commission has recommended a requirement.  "Homestead is meant to be preserve and to be a place that everyone can see what it must have been like to cross a vast and open prairie in the late 18-hundreds. Today, that could be destroyed by tens and possibly hundreds of five-hundred foot tall wind turbines."

Following the public hearing, the commission recommended changes for consideration by the Gage County Board. They include a ban on wind turbine shadow flicker on public school property…and adopting a Lancaster County wind noise standard of 40-decibels during the daytime….37 at night.

The commission approved a similar shadow flicker ban affecting churches….a wind farm decommissioning plan that spells out detailed costs, a developer requirement for a bond and guaranteeing removal of decommissioned equipment and restoration of an area.

The commission also recommends a wind turbine height restriction of 400 feet, from base of the tower to the highest point of a turbine blade. Also recommended is subjecting wind developers to fines if they violate road maintenance agreements and requiring developers to escrow funds to help pay for studies, at a level to be set by the Gage County Board.