The Clinton County Planning and Zoning Commission continued to hear expert testimony concerning wind turbine operations last week.
The zoning commission convened at the courthouse Thursday, July 7, to take the testimony of two expert witnesses offered by Concerned Citizens for the Future of Clinton and DeKalb Counties, the group proposing stricter regulations concerning wind energy operations in the county.
The zoning commission is considering what, if any, amendments to add to their zoning ordinances. Some of those amendments are opposed by NextEra Energy, the company that has proposed building wind turbines in northern Clinton County as part of their Osborn, Mo. project, which is underway in DeKalb County. The zoning commission is working under a moratorium on all wind energy permit applications.
The first of these hearings was held on Thursday, June 16, during which the zoning commission heard testimony about decommissioning, blade glint and shadow flicker. That meeting began at 7 p.m. and lasted nearly seven hours, with the final gavel coming just short of 1:40 a.m. the following morning.
To avoid another late night, Thursday’s hearing began at 3 p.m. in the afternoon, with setbacks and noise as the primary topics. The testimony was much shorter, as an expert scheduled for NextEra Energy was unable to attend. NextEra did not submit any of their witnesses on Thursday. They are expected to do so at a later meeting.
Concerned Citizens for the Future of Clinton and DeKalb Counties, which is joined by Shatto Milk Company in their support for stricter wind energy regulations, presented two expert witnesses before the zoning commission on Thursday afternoon – Kevon Martis and Robert Rand. Both offered their testimony under various objections from Polsinelli’s Seth Wright, who served as the lead legal counsel on NextEra’s side.
Martis, who worked on wind energy issues during his time on a township-level planning commission and county-level land use committee in Michigan, spoke primarily about setbacks. He advocated that the setback – which is the distance between wind turbines and a set point on nearby nonparticipating properties or other locations – should be established from nearby property lines and not from structures. He also suggested that the setback shouldn’t be a set distance, but rather a multiplier of the turbine’s height, stating that future turbines could be larger in height.
Martis also spoke about the potential use of a tiered setback system, in which affected neighboring property owners can sign a waiver allowing for the setback to be on their property.
Robert Rand, an acoustic investigator for Rand Acoustics, testified secondly to the zoning commission. It was stated that Rand had worked with wind turbine noise since 2009 and had previously presented and discussed noise issues with a number of entities, including the prime minister and legislature of Aruba.
Rand testified that Clinton County’s current noise limit – 50 decibels within 100 feet of residences or occupied structures – is too high, adding that his previous experiences were with setback measurements at the property line. Rand agreed that the proposed amendment to the regulations – calling for a limit of the lesser of a five-decibel increase of existing background noise, or 35 decibels for any period of time at a used structure - would be in keeping with the health and welfare of residents, but again stipulated his previous works centered around setbacks at the property line.
He said that sleep disturbances were the top complaint resulting from turbine noise, adding that in some instances families have moved their beds into the basement, or even secured places to sleep at locations away from their homes. Rand said that it doesn’t affect everyone.
Rand testified that setback distances are the key in limiting noise impact because there are few, if any, noise control measures for wind turbines.
Wright was adamant in his objection to Rand’s qualifications as an expert witness, especially when it came to testimony concerning health issues, where Wright contended that Rand lacked educational experience. At one point Wright requested that Rand’s testimony be fully struck from the record.
In addition to their scheduled special session meeting Thursday, July 21, Clinton County Planning and Zoning Administrator Beth Farwell said an additional special session meeting could be scheduled, during which NextEra could have the opportunity to present their evidence and witnesses concerning setbacks and noise.
The previously-scheduled meeting on Thursday, July 21, is expected to begin at 3 p.m. and will center around stray voltage issues.
Three regular business items were on the agenda for the meeting last Thursday, July 7, but all three were tabled. One of the requests, put forward by Rick Spencer, concerned lot line adjustments in subdivisions. Clinton County currently has regulations allowing for replats but not lot line adjustments. The board is expected to consider whether to add an avenue allowing for lot line adjustments.
Also tabled were a rezoning request and an application for a special use permit. The rezone, put forward by Chris Walker of Lathrop, would change 15 acres of ag land near Interstate 35 (south of 116 Highway, east of Lathrop) to commercial for the purpose of an antique flea and farmers market. The request for a special use permit was submitted by Blane Medlock of Kansas City and would allow the sale of used vehicles from a property in rural Cameron.