The Crawford County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday continued their discussion of a new construction compliance certificate that would impose new requirements on the construction of wind turbines in the county.
The following is an edited and condensed account of the discussion, which lasted nearly 40 minutes.
The new construction compliance certificate would require a wind turbine tower to have a setback of 2.5 times the overall height (to tip of vertical blade) from the foundation of the tower to the foundation of a project-participating landowner's residence, or 3.5 times the overall height to a non-participating landowner's residence unless written consent of the landowner is obtained.
The sound from a wind turbine would be required to not exceed 45 decibels at any occupied residence (occupied at start of project) unless waived in writing by the owner.
The county's current wind energy ordinance requires a setback of 1,000 feet from an occupied dwelling.
The current draft of the construction compliance certificate requires a two-mile setback from airports, county parks, and incorporated community limits; the setback for unincorporated communities would be one mile.
Supervisor Ty Rosburg and Chairman Kyle Schultz asked about the difference between an unincorporated area and a group of homes in the country that doesn't have that designation; during the last discussion two weeks ago, the supervisors asked that a definition of an unincorporated community's boundaries be included in the certificate.
Assistant County Attorney Marth Sibbel said County Assessor/Zoning Administrator Duane Zenk had pointed out that unincorporated communities were incorporated towns at some point; the previous boundaries could be used to determine setbacks.
She noted that the only way for a new unincorporated community to be established is for it to first be established as an incorporated community.
Sibbel said a company wanting to do business near an unincorporated area could easily get the boundary information from Zenk.
Schultz suggested a discussion about leaving unincorporated areas out of the certificate.
Sibbel said the choice on whether to include unincorporated areas would be a political decision by the board as to how many roadblocks the board wants to impose.
Schultz pointed out that the supervisors have jurisdiction of unincorporated areas so future issues would come back to the supervisors to be addressed.
Rosburg said future development of unincorporated areas benefits the county, and wind turbines sitting right next to such areas would likely discourage development.
Schultz said rural developments such as that on Riverview Drive south of Denison would not get the same protection as an unincorporated area.
Dave Muhlbauer, who will rejoin the board in January, asked if the setback areas would change from year to year; he used Kenwood, which is in the process of being vacated, as an example.
When a new wind farm company moves forward with a project, the construction compliance certificate would be current with current zoning maps, Schultz said.
"Part of the advantage of having the construction compliance certificate monitored through zoning, through the assessor's office, is that the assessor is very much up to date on how property can change; whether they're corporate limits or unincorporated," Sibbel said.
Steve Mumm, of Westside, and a member of that community's variance board, asked if allowing a wind turbine company to take measurements from a foundation gives the company say in what an individual does on their own property.
He said using a lot line would be easier.
Rosburg said he didn't think the county could justify a setback of 3.5 times tower height from all property lines; 3.5 time tower height from property lines would take the county out of the business of wind turbines, he said.
Variance boards don't have any rules to go by if a complaint is brought to them, Mumm said.
A variance wouldn't be granted unless a landowner had signed an agreement with the wind turbine company, or if other mitigating circumstances existed as to why the variance wouldn't be a good idea, Rosburg said.
Mumm asked what would happen if a homeowner wanted to move their home within the 3.5-times-height circle after a wind turbine is built.
"The certificate that they are applying for is for the construction only," Sibbel said. "Once the wind field is constructed, no, they are not going to come back and renegotiate if you want to build your house in a different spot."
Rosburg noted that some farmers want wind turbines.
Mumm said he is "all in" for wind turbines but said that down the road he doesn't know what the questions will be.
He asked if the supervisors could leave setbacks from towns to the town councils to determine; he said excluding 35% of the county with a two-mile setback from towns would prevent a lot of farmers from getting revenue from wind turbines and would keep that money from going into those communities.
"Every town can establish an agreement with the wind company to say that (they) can come in closer than that," Sibbel said.
Mumm asked if it would be better to let each town determine the setback.
"The difficult part with that is that the towns have jurisdiction only over their towns – they don't have jurisdiction over the land outside of their towns," Sibbel said.
The board of supervisors has jurisdiction in those areas, she said.
Sibbel said a town's city council could take action to change the setback.
On the issue of noise levels from wind turbines, Sibbel said that if the 45 decibel noise level is exceeded, and no enforcement language exists in an easement, a breach of contract action could be taken.
Sibbel said she would make several requested adjustments to the construction compliance certificate and email new copies to the supervisors for review.
No action was taken.