CLINTON — The DeWitt County Board's decisions Thursday night to expand the setback around wind farm turbine towers but not limit their height pleased a developer proposing such a project but left some residents unhappy.
The board voted 6-5 against implementing a height limit of 499 feet, but it unanimously approved mandating a setback of at least 2,000 feet between a turbine tower and the property of a landowner who is not contracted to host a tower site. That setback is an increase of 500 feet from the current standard.
“It's a little bit of a mixed bag of emotions,” said Andrea Rhoades, whose home sits in the footprint of a project site proposed by Trade Winds Energy.
“We were very pleased with the 2,000-foot setback, but we were expecting the height to be restricted because currently our ordinances have no height restriction, which means these turbines could be as high as you could imagine and that is something we are not very keen on," said Rhoades, who was among about 150 people who attended the meeting at the DeWitt County government building in Clinton.
The Lenexa, Kan.-based developer intends to file for a special-use permit to build a wind farm centered about 5 miles northwest of Clinton. It would stretch across 24,000 acres and involving about 200 individual landowners.
Tom Swierczewski, a development director with Trade Winds Energy, spoke in favor of the board's decisions.
“The 2,000-foot setback was something we heard pretty clear from the community and the County Board members and it was something we could agree with to accommodate them," he said.
“But the 499-foot height just doesn't work together with that," he added. "It would have been a burden to the project and would have made it tough to compete in the market with those two strict standards.”
Swierczewski said the company is beginning to narrow its list of turbine types and is looking at towers both taller and shorter than 499 feet.
“We are looking at which of the machines are perfect for the site, and we will include that when we present our application to the county,” he said.
Previously, the Regional Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously recommended the height restriction and the setback expansion.
Swierczewski said company officials are looking at filing the special-use permit application with the county later this spring. Once the application is filed, the Regional Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals will add their recommendations before it goes to the County Board.
“I hope the board will be open to more discussions from our group and more education,” Rhoades said. “This is going to be a very long process.”