Article

Group recommends zoning changes

The commission agreed to recommend a setback from wind turbines of 1,000 feet from participating residences and 2,000 feet from non-participating residences near a wind project. The latter differed from a recommendation by county commissioner Glenn Diehl, who had suggested a 1-mile setback. "I understand trying to protect residences," Planning Commission Chairman Bill Poland said. "I think we can come to a compromise.

After four hours of discussions, the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission agreed to recommend changes in the county's zoning regulations, some conforming to suggestions from county commissioners, and others not.

The changes now will be forwarded to the county commission for a final round of approval.

The commission agreed to recommend a setback from wind turbines of 1,000 feet from participating residences and 2,000 feet from non-participating residences near a wind project. The latter differed from a recommendation by county commissioner Glenn Diehl, who had suggested a 1-mile setback.

"I understand trying to protect residences," Planning Commission Chairman Bill Poland said. "I think we can come to a compromise. A mile is too far. A thousand feet is too close."

The commission also defined the terms "participating" and "non-participating" in terms of whether or not property was under lease or contract with a wind company. The term "residence" also was defined.

Along with setbacks, another hot-button issue throughout the process of changing zoning regulations has been noise standards.

"If you're going to do anything on noise management, it ought to be done outside the planning and zoning... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

After four hours of discussions, the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission agreed to recommend changes in the county's zoning regulations, some conforming to suggestions from county commissioners, and others not.

The changes now will be forwarded to the county commission for a final round of approval.

The commission agreed to recommend a setback from wind turbines of 1,000 feet from participating residences and 2,000 feet from non-participating residences near a wind project. The latter differed from a recommendation by county commissioner Glenn Diehl, who had suggested a 1-mile setback.

"I understand trying to protect residences," Planning Commission Chairman Bill Poland said. "I think we can come to a compromise. A mile is too far. A thousand feet is too close."

The commission also defined the terms "participating" and "non-participating" in terms of whether or not property was under lease or contract with a wind company. The term "residence" also was defined.

Along with setbacks, another hot-button issue throughout the process of changing zoning regulations has been noise standards.

"If you're going to do anything on noise management, it ought to be done outside the planning and zoning code and it ought to apply to the entire county, not just wind farms," Zoning Administrator Dale Wing said.

But the planning commission opted to recommend the use of World Health Organization noise standards for wind turbines, as well as pre- and post-construction noise surveys. Those would be paid for by the wind developer and conducted by an independent contractor.

Noise complaints after those surveys are completed would be handled by the zoning department as nuisances.

The planning commission also approved a recommendation to include language pertaining to decommissioning funding.

"I think these LLCs are going to declare bankruptcy when their turbines are no longer usable, and we're going to be stuck with the carcasses," planning commissioner Keith Campbell said.

Campbell proposed wind developers place money in an escrow account to pay for the cost of decommissioning each turbine. It would be on a sliding scale from 20 percent of the total cost after two years of the project's operation, 30 percent after three years, and so on, until 100 percent of the cost would be funded after 10 years.

Commissioners agreed on the recommendation because it did not define dollar amounts that would be variable in the future.

Other recommendations by the planning commission include:

* a 1,000-foot notification and protest area for wind projects. That differs from the county commission's recommendation of 2,000 feet.

* setbacks from public county roads and railroads at 1.5 times the tip height of a wind turbine.

* a setback of one-half the height of the tower for telecommunications towers.

* a setback of 2,000 feet from village districts and non-participating suburban and single-family residential districts near wind projects.

Not gaining approval from the commission included:

* encouraging the use of Obstacle Collision Avoidance Systems as a lighting mechanism on wind turbines. Commissioners said they might not be cost-efficient. Instead, they recommended the use of red lights, as prescribed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

* a 3-mile buffer zone for all incorporated cities.

Commissioners said since Hays and Ellis elected to implement the 3-mile zone on their own, other cities -- Victoria and Schoenchen -- should not be limited by county regulations.

"Victoria has their own government. They can make their own rules," planning commissioner Paul Baier said.

Although about 30 people showed up to the meeting, the commission did not allow public comment. The planning commission considered the changes in a public hearing last year and forwarded their recommendations to the county commission in late April.

County commissioners made their own changes and asked for the planning commission's input before implementing the revisions.


Source: http://hdn.live.mediaspanon...

MAR 25 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/25391-group-recommends-zoning-changes
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