Library filed under Zoning/Planning from Nebraska
In October, after six townships passed regulations limiting wind turbine development, the County Board sent a letter to notify all of the county’s 17 townships that the new regulations exceeded the townships’ authority. ...Even though the County Board and the townships are at odds on the policy, there doesn’t appear to be any pressing need to settle the matter.
A nearly yearlong effort to update wind regulations in Lancaster County ended Tuesday when county leaders approved regulations that wind-energy supporters say will discourage projects in the county. County commissioners Roma Amundson, Deb Schorr and Larry Hudkins approved the regulations, while commissioners Bill Avery and Todd Wiltgen voted against them.
In a vote that could affect wind farm development elsewhere in Nebraska, the Lancaster County Board on Tuesday adopted tough new noise restrictions on wind turbines. The restrictions prohibit wind turbines from generating more than 40 decibels of noise during the day — about what’s generated by a household refrigerator — as measured at nearby residences.
Lancaster County now has new restrictions regarding wind farms and potential wind energy projects. The Lancaster County Board voted 3-2 for more restrictive regulations on Tuesday. Volkswind, a German Independent Power Producer, is attempting to build more than fifty wind turbines in Southeastern Lancaster and Gage County.
County health officials said that due to “gaps” in knowledge about health impacts, the county should be conservative in its regulations. It suggested limits of 40 decibels during the day and 37 decibels at night for wind turbines, as measured from nearby dwellings. That compared to a recommendation by the county planning commission of 50 decibels during the day and 42 decibels at night.
Several members of the Lancaster County Board have expressed support for strengthening wind-energy regulations beyond a current proposal.
Several Lancaster County commissioners said Tuesday they were concerned the Planning Commission’s recommendations don’t go far enough to protect landowners who aren’t planning to lease their land to wind-energy companies. ...Scott Holmes, environmental health manager for the Health Department, said wind turbine noise can cause physiological reactions, including loss of sleep and increased heart rates and blood pressure.
The Butler County Board of Supervisors went on the record Monday in regard to recent regulations that six townships passed regarding wind energy development. County Attorney Julie Reiter, who advised the board on the issue, said it was not a question of whether the County Board supported or opposed wind energy development.
Meanwhile, at least two Lancaster County commissioners said they are concerned proposed wind energy regulations they are to consider later this month won’t do enough to protect landowners from being negatively affected by wind turbines.
Over the past two weeks, voters in six Butler County townships overwhelmingly approved regulations for wind energy development, but whether the restrictions will stand remains to be seen. On Monday, Butler County Attorney Julie Reiter said she doesn't think the townships have the authority to enforce regulations that amount to zoning.
The regulations were drawn up by the Bohemian Alps Wind Watchers, a group of concerned citizens that was organized when wind development plans became known last spring. Lincoln attorney Greg Barton, who was advising four of townships as well as the Wind Watchers, countered Levy’s argument, stating that state law does not preclude townships from taking action regarding their property and access to roads. Both agreed that the issue wouldn’t be settled at the township level meetings.
Drawn up by the Bohemian Alps Wind Watchers, a group of concerned citizens, the regulations were proposed as safety rules. The first banned high voltage power lines under township roads. The second placed setbacks of 1,640 feet from wind turbines to the nearest township road and non-participating property. The second set of rules also placed lower overnight noise limits, to be determined by a study, on the turbines.
In Brainard, loud cheers accompanied the announcement of votes of 114-3, 114-1 and 113-1 for the three different decisions. Two regulations have been passed: The first bans the placement of high voltage power lines under township property. The other places a 1,640 setback requirement from any property not associated with the wind farm development and also from township roads, and it also limits the noise created by the turbines during overnight hours.
Jan BBostelman, who described her 35 years of experience as an engineer in the power industry, said the safety regulations need to be based on the worst case scenarios of turbine failures. Dan Schmid of Dwight spoke in support of the regulations. He said European countries are much more experienced in wind development and they have larger setback distances. Germany, for example, is creating setbacks of 1,000 meters, about double the distance set in the local regulations.
By a 3-1 margin, township voters approved limitations on the development of turbines within the township that surrounds David City on the north, east and south sides. ...Residents also voted 33-11 to require 1,640-foot setbacks between the turbines and the nearest township road and any nearby property whose owner is not part of the development. The regulation also placed limits on the noise created by turbines during overnight hours.
On Wednesday night, the nine members of the Lincoln/Lancaster County Planning Commission recommended approval of the proposed rules on a 5-4 vote, after rolling back sound limits and doing away with a daily limit on the amount of time flickering shadows cast by turbine blades can pass over neighboring houses. ...The move disappointed Hallam and Cortland area property owners. They had wanted the noise limits to remain at 40 decibels in the day and 37 at night, numbers that were recommended by the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department.
The noise turbines make cannot be compared to other sounds, like a stream or the hum of a refrigerator, which also are around 40 decibels. “It’s more annoying to people than other sounds at the same levels,” he said. It’s unique. Multiple turbines, even if in sync, combine to make a modulating pulsing swoosh and thump, plus a whirring sound, a hum from the transformer substation and infrasound below human hearing.
The proposed regulations address noise and health issues from wind turbines, as well as setback requirements from homes and property, lighting and decommissioning of towers. Stephen Henrichsen, the department's development review manager, said comments will be reviewed before final regulations are presented to the Planning Commission for a public hearing in August. No date has been set.
Lancaster County is expected to adopt new wind farm regulations restrictive enough they may prevent future developments, and Gage County will likely follow suit. The County Board of Supervisors discussed regulations at its regular meeting this week. The proposed changes are the result of joint meetings with Lancaster County officials first held in March.
"Our concern is that they're trying to place them quite close to our homes and we were worried about the sound that's emitted by them," Cindy Chapman said. She is a member of a coalition against Volkswind. Current zoning laws say the turbines must at least 1000 ft away from the property line of any home not involved in the project. It also requires they not exceed noise level of 35 decibels.