This Thursday, the Clinton County Planning and Zoning Commission will host its fourth courtroom-style hearing about proposed amendments to the county’s wind energy regulations, but with nearly half of the proceedings behind them, those involved will soon set their sights on the next step.
The zoning commission is operating under a moratorium on all wind energy applications which will expire in December, leaving approximately four months for the county to strengthen its wind energy regulations before opening themselves back up for proposals. The zoning commission held its first hearing on the matter in June and has started meeting twice monthly to accommodate the additional workload.
Two sides have faced off in these hearings: Concerned Citizens of Clinton and DeKalb Counties (joined by Shatto Milk Company), a local citizen group in opposition to the proposed wind turbine project; and NextEra Energy, the company proposing to build those turbines in the northern portion of Clinton County. Both camps have offered expert testimony and evidence supporting their respective positions.
While there are important areas left to be heard, the majority of key subjects – turbine decommissioning, blade glint, shadow flicker and stray voltage – have been addressed. Setbacks, lot sizes and noise have been partially discussed; proponents of the amendments presented their expert testimony in early July, but NextEra – unable to provide their full slate of witnesses that evening – will have the chance to make their presentation at a newly-added meeting on Thursday, August 25.
The zoning commission will receive testimony concerning transportation routes, lighting and wildlife on Thursday, August 4, followed by property value protections, livestock operations and administrative issues on Thursday, August 18. Barring any deviations in the schedule, the August 25 hearing should be the last for testimony and evidence.
Once the hearings are complete, it will be up to the zoning commission to use the information and formulate the amendments they wish to propose. The amendments previously proposed by Concerned Citizens and Shatto Milk could be used as a guide, approved in part or full, tweaked or even tossed aside. Though those proposed amendments have served as a template for the discussions, the zoning commission is not obligated to use them in any form.
The zoning commission will have a healthy amount of time in which to do this. Between the conclusion of the hearings and expiration of the moratorium, the zoning commission will have three months in which to fine-tune their proposed amendments, put them before the public for a hearing, make adjustments if needed, and send them up to the Clinton County Commissioners.
Though the Clinton County Commissioners sign off on most recommendations from the zoning commission, their decision isn’t a formality. The county commission doesn’t have the power to alter any amendments passed on from the zoning commission, but a vote against the amendments could send them back downstairs to the zoning department.