Zoning Board hears wind presentationsA Stutsman County Zoning Board subcommittee is continuing its work to draft a wind zoning ordinance. During a meeting Thursday it heard presentations from Kevin Cramer, public service commissioner for North Dakota, and people involved with the wind industry.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
A Stutsman County Zoning Board subcommittee is continuing its work to draft a wind zoning ordinance. During a meeting Thursday it heard presentations from Kevin Cramer, public service commissioner for North Dakota, and people involved with the wind industry.
Of concern to the subcommittee is the issue of setbacks or the distance that wind turbines must be from the property of others not involved in the project and the distance that wind turbines must be from occupied structures.
“We look at setback on a case-by-case basis,” Cramer said. “The developer brings us the site plan and we take landowner comments from anyone that might object.”
Cramer said the typical setback from a wind turbine to an occupied home is usually 1,400 feet unless the homeowner asks that a turbine be allowed closer.
Concerns with turbines too close to homes are based on the noise the turbines create and “flicker” caused when the rotating blades cause light and shadows to fall on the home. The PSC also considers other setbacks from areas such as wetlands.
The proposed Stutsman County ordinance, drafted by Fritz Fremgen, Stutsman County state’s attorney, requires that all wind turbines be placed at least five times the rotor diameter of the turbine from any occupied structure. The rotor diameter is defined as the diameter of the circle made by the tips of the rotor blades.
While wind turbine equipment continues to grow in size, the rotor diameters of the wind turbines in the Kulm-Edgeley wind farm are approximately 200 feet, according to information on the Kulm Web site.
This would mean that, depending on the size of the equipment, turbines might be allowed closer to occupied homes. But the zoning also specifies that turbines must be placed at least five rotor diameters from any adjoining property owned by someone not part of the agreement. It was this issue that brought the most debate from people associated with wind energy.
“There are two resources involved but only one is being paid,” said Joe Richardson, a landowner from Fargo who has been an advocate for landowners involved with wind power companies. “The person who owns the land the turbine is built on gives up his resource and gets paid but the people who own property where the wind is disrupted by the turbine, people who can’t have a turbine on their own land, don’t get anything.”
Richardson suggested pooling the funds generated by the wind turbines, paying 25 percent to the landowner of the turbine site and distributing the rest to landowners who own property where the wind has been disrupted.
“Such a system has no need for setbacks,” he said.
The proposed Stutsman County ordinance would not require payment to anyone other than the person who owns the land the turbine is sited on but would require a signed waiver of rights from anyone else owning property within the five rotor diameter area of the turbine. Those owners would most likely ask to be compensated for their waver.
But the idea of an agreement with all owners of property that have had a disruption of wind being necessary for the project to go forward was questioned.
“I question if it is proper to compel a landowner to get waivers from neighbors,” said Ted Wiseman, field man for NextEra Energy, formerly Florida Power and Light.
Wiseman also suggested the county consider a two-step zoning process.
“We should be able to get a conditional permit at the start of the zoning process,” he said. “At that point we don’t know what turbine models we will be using or exactly where they will be placed. After we have all that information we could come back for building permits for each turbine.”
The wind zoning subcommittee took the information under advisement. It will hold meetings at 3 p.m. on Feb. 5 and 12 at the courthouse to finalize the language of the ordinance before it will be forwarded to the full commission at its Feb. 17 meeting.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at email@example.com