CLEAR LAKE — Despite nearly three hours of discussion by the Deuel County Commission and observers, no decisions have yet been made on adopting proposed ordinance revisions on wind towers.
Meeting at the Clear Lake Community Center in front of an audience of at least 200 people, the county commission didn’t get very far when it came time to possibly approving or denying the proposed ordinance revisions recommended by the Deuel County Planning and Zoning Board in January.
With proposed ordinances on increasing setbacks and lowering maximum decibel levels from wind towers in recognition of the rights of non-participating land owners, along with capping the annual hours of flicker effects from wind blades in relation to the Sun’s angle, the commission came to an immediate roadblock on determining what would an acceptable setback distance be from non-participating land.
The proposed ordinances come as Chicago-based firm Invenergy looks at putting up wind towers in northeastern Deuel County to connect with the wind power transmission CapX2020 line scheduled to be completed later this year.
Although the Planning and Zoning Board recommended increasing the setback distance for wind turbines to 1,500 feet in response to the increased size of wind towers and the detrimental effects the towers’ noise may have on non-participating residents, some testimony given over the previous 90 minutes prompted County Commissioner Gary DeJong to amend the proposed ordinance to increase the setback distance to 2,640 feet, or one-half mile, from a non-participating property line, later changed to a residence.
DeJong’s proposal meant to serve as a compromise.
“The wind people say they can live with 1,500 feet,” DeJong said. “We have people in the non-participant group who want a larger setback. They’ve asked for 3,280 feet. I like compromise. I would like to see a one-half mile setback.”
Despite his efforts to bridge a divide, DeJong’s proposal didn’t go over well with the wind tower proponents and participating land owners.
Having earlier stated in the public comments portion of the meeting that the proposal to change the setback distance to 1,500 feet along with other proposed ordinances amounted to changing the rules of a game already in progress, Invenergy Senior Manager of Project Development Dan Litchfield said that the 2,640-foot setback would make the installation of wind towers not viable.
“(An earlier) proposal from Mr. Junker was for a 1,000-foot property line setback, if I recall. This isn’t a compromise. This is 260 percent of what they asked for,” Litchfield said. “If this is what you choose to do, there are going to be no wind turbines.”
Participating land owner Dennis Evenson echoed Litchfield’s concern.
“You may have killed any chance of wind development in Deuel County,” Evenson said.
DeJong’s proposed compromise didn’t draw any feedback from opponents of Invenergy’s proposed wind turbine development.
However, with the board’s approval of Commission Chair Gary Jaeger’s request to table a vote on the proposed ordinances until a future meeting, no final decision has been rendered, leaving the future of wind turbines in northern Deuel County up in the air.
Jaeger made his request about 4:15 p.m., approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes after the meeting began. Initially hoping to have the meeting end by 4 p.m., Jaeger saw no imminent end in sight to a meeting where extensive debate was being had on the first of several proposed ordinance revisions.
“I said we were going to cut this off at 4 p.m. Well, we’re past it,” Jaeger said. “Due to the semblance of time, I know we’re not going to come to a compromise. We will have to continue this discussion because we’re not going to have a marathon meeting here.”
Before entering discussion about amending the proposed ordinances, the commissioners and the crowd heard testimony from approximately 20 people, representing both proponents and opponents of the proposed Invenergy turbine construction project.