Throughout much of the United States (and other countries) siting of wind energy development is governed primarily through local land use regulations as adopted by a host town or county. In jurisdictions with no regulations, there are no rules regarding height limitations, setback buffer requirements, noise enforcement guidelines, or other standards necessary to ensure the safe placement and operation of the turbines. Even with regulations in place, rural towns rarely have experience in large-scale developments, and their land use boards often fail to exercise the full scope of their authority to regulate wind towers.
But a more dangerous circumstance pertaining to wind development exists - one Windaction.org has observed across the US. That is the apparent and blatant disregard by some local board members for the laws on the books. In some cases, the board members do not understand the purpose, intent, and letter of the existing laws in their town or county. In other cases, members are well aware of the laws but freely bend them to ensure a specific outcome.
Last week, the planning commission for Bingham County, Idaho held a public hearing on a proposal to build 81 miles of road and erect 150 wind turbines across more than 17,600 acres of Wolverine Canyon. This area is locally designated as a Natural Resource/Agriculture district which, by definition, does not permit industrial, energy-producing, structures. Yet, last fall, this same application was approved by the planning commission, and later withdrawn by the developer only after it was revealed that several abutting property owners were not notified of the proposal (a technicality unrelated to the land use issues).
It is unclear how the planning commission could have approved the original application since the towers are not a 'permitted use' in the NR/A district, nor can we understand how the plan could be accepted for public hearing again last week if it continues to be in violation of existing land use regulations.
Windaction.org encourages all residents of a community to understand your local regulations and ensure your local boards respect and follow the laws as adopted, including permitted uses, height limits, setbacks, noise, safety, etc.