Matter Goes Before County Supervisors, Tuesday
“Your community is making one of its most important land use decisions ever,” said Kevon Martis, as he appeared via video communication at a public meeting, Thursday, May 19.
Martis, a former vice chairman of Riga Township in Michigan, was the featured speaker for an informational meeting, hosted by the newly formed group, Protect Antelope County’s Future.
PACF scheduled the meeting to provide information about the proposed Upstream Wind Energy Farm, that, if approved by the Antelope County Board of Supervisors, would generate 350 megawatts of energy in northern Antelope County.
The public meeting was attended by approximately 125 people.
Member of the group Cory Furstenau, also an Antelope County resident and landowner, introduced Martis.
Martis said the state of Michigan has approximately 1,500 megawatts of wind energy. He said energy produced in Michigan is approximately twice the amount in the state of Nebraska.
“Experience has been a harsh teacher,” said Martis, as he told of construction of turbines in his home state.
Attorney Mark Hunzeker of Lincoln, partner with the law firm, Baylor Evnen, also spoke before the audience.
Hunzeker has been hired as legal counsel for the PACF committee.
“Your (Antelope County) zoning regulations, regulating wind energy systems, were clearly drafted by developers,” said Hunzeker.
“They do not, in my opinion, adequately represent non-participating property owners. In my opinion, this application should be placed on hold and should be sent back to the planning commission, pending a review of your ordinance for the purpose of protecting the health, safety and welfare of non-participating property owners.”
Hunzeker said he believed the Antelope County Planning Commission acted on an incomplete application when they approved the conditional use permit for the Upstream Wind Energy Project, on February 25.
He said the exact location of up to 168 turbines for the fourth wind farm in Antelope County, did not contain a complete identification of the placement of the turbines.
Invenergy LLC, project applicant, requested a variance of up to 900 feet for each turbine placement.
When the ACPC approved the CUP, a condition of a 600 feet variance was suggested.
Martis said zoning regulations should promote the health, safety and wellness of the community.
He told the audience to ask themselves the following questions about the health, safety and welfare of Antelope County:
-Are the developer’s profits more important than the health, safety and welfare?
-Are the promises of increased tax revenue more important than the health, safety and welfare?
-Are claims of private property rights more important than the health, safety and welfare?
-Are green jobs or emissions more important than the health, safety and welfare?
Martis said, “No.”
According to Martis, a majority of zoning rules and regulations in other locations, measure the setback distance for turbines at the actual property line of the landowner.
Antelope County zoning regulations, however, list the setback distance in relationship to an occupied dwelling.
Martis defined turbines on participating landowners’ property, located aside landowners without signed contracts, are in essence, trespassing.
“Enforcing noise ordinances can be tricky business,” said Martis.
Current Antelope County zoning regulations consist of a guideline of up to 50 decibels.
Martis said that level was not protective.
He said, “The World Health Organization, in 2009, said normal night time noise is 18 - 25 dB.
The WHO said noise levels of up to 30 dB have no substantial effects on an individual. When the levels raise to 40 dB, body movements, sleep, disturbance and arousal of a sleeping person, may occur.
With levels of 40 to 55 dB, there is a sharp increase in adverse health effects and if the level is above 55 dB, adverse health effects occur frequently, according to the WHO,” said Martis.
“You already have a situation where there are allegations or complaints of noise violations on a previous project,” said Hunzeker.
“There has been no acoustical analysis with this application which is a requirement of your ordinance. The planning commission requested the study be done within two years,” said Hunzeker.
The PACF attorney faulted Antelope County officials for not obtaining a noise study on Prairie Breeze I and II, which were the initial wind farm projects completed in Antelope County. Instead, a projected noise analysis was provided prior to construction of the projects. Following complaints of Antelope County residents living near the Prairie Breeze turbines, Invenergy hired the consultant who provided the projected analysis, to do an actual study now that the turnbines are in use. The results of that study are not yet available.
A resident of Boone County, said he has three towers within one-half mile of his home. He said he has difficulty sleeping and the low audible hum also comes into factor.
An Antelope County property owner, near the Boone and Antelope County border, told the News she has 15 turbines located within one-and one-half miles of her home.
She said, “The noise level is unbearable.”
Prairie Breeze I and II are located near the two individuals.
Sara Lemberg of rural Ewing asked where noise levels were measured. Mantis said levels were measured outside of the home, but homes, themselves, can be transducers of the low decibel noise.
“The visual impact alone is hideous but the sound impact, is something you have to be there to experience,” said Hunzeker.
When the sun is low in the sky and shines across the turbines, a shadow of the rotating blades can be cast into buildings or through windows.
Martis said software is available to turbine construction companies that measures flicker events and can be used to program turbine rotation stops, when flickering is detected. He said Antelope County zoning standards should include a zero flicker tolerance.
“I recommend your county consider a decommissioning bond requirement and let the value of that bond be determined by an independent third party engineer and let the municipality pick the engineer. Make the wind developer pay for the engineer,” said Martis.
Martis said he favored a bond over a financial guarantee. “If the turbine developer defaulted, and turbines are left standing, they are going to fight you like crazy to ever pay to remove the things.
The turbine developer you are working with now, may very well change.”
Martis said the average length of wind farm ownership is six to seven years.
Regarding property values, Martis said wind developers say there is no significant loss of property value within the areas of wind turbines.
“If wind developers were serious that wind turbines had no effect on property values, they should have no risk at all giving you a property value guarantee,” said Martis.
“There is a whole bunch of independent property studies that show a 14 to 59 percent property value loss within three miles of wind turbines,” he said.
Lighting of Turbines
Attendees of the meeting questioned lighting requirements for turbines presently in place and those under construction.
Both Martis and Hunzeker deferred to the requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration.
In a report issued by the FAA, dated April 24, turbines must be temporarily lit during construction once they reach a height of 200 feet. A steady red light fixture should be used during construction phase and after the structure reaches 200 feet in height, the light must be placed on the uppermost portion of the structure.
If a light failure or malfunction occurs for more than 30 minutes, a report must be filed immediately so a Notice To Airmen may be issued.
Safety of Turbines And Icing
Martis showed a photo of a turbine in Michigan damaged as turbine rotation exceeded speed designed for the unit. As the turbine blade speed increases past an allowed rotational speed, the blades bend backward, and hit the turbine base, causing blades to break and be tossed into nearby land.
Martis cited directions for turbine employees when icing and frost occurs on the wind turbines. Instructions for employees to activate an emergency stop is listed on General Electric’s website. General Electric is the manufacturer of the Invenergy turbines.
Martis said Michigan, “recommended a two-stage setback with a waiver option for both noise and distance, which required the developer to negotiate with everybody that was impacted.
“Its fair and equitable and reduces community division,” said Martis.
“Is it too late to change Antelope County’s wind ordinances,” asked Furstenau.
Martis said he believed two things had to be in place for any developer. “Any developer, not just a wind developer, does not have vested rights until two criteria are met,” said Martis.
The criteria, according to Martis, includes, “issuance of an actual building permit and commencement of actual construction.”
Taxing information was questioned by Brian Frey.
Hunzeker said, “This developer is waiving a lot of money and saying they are going to alleviate a lot of taxes.
The fact of the matter is, whatever taxes are paid are going to be coming out of your other pocket. These projects are not possible without the tax credits.”
“You should come to the hearing on Tuesday. Be not afraid to go to the county board and let them know your feelings about this.”
Hunzeker described the process as “Punishing your neighbors and rewarding your friends.”
Bob Kester of rural Clearwater, asked if county supervisors have been made aware of Martis’ presentation. Antelope County Supervisor Greg Koinzan, along with zoning board members Ron Rice and Matt Klabenes were present for the meeting.
A public hearing for the CUP for the Upstream Wind Energy Project is set for Tuesday, May 24, in front of the Antelope County Board of Supervisors.
The hearing will allow those in favor of, opposed to, or with neutral comments to speak before the board.
The hearing will be held at the Neligh American Legion and is set at 9:15 a.m. The board will hold a separate hearing for a zoning change regarding a change from a three-acre minimum dwelling to a one-acre minimum. That hearing is set for 9 a.m. at the Legion.