County panel to eye wind energy regulations, possible changes

August 9, 2018

A committee of Adams County Planning and Zoning Commission members will look at possible changes to the county’s wind regulations.

The creation of that committee came out of a discussion about wind regulations during the commission’s regular meeting on Monday.

Zoning Administrator Judy Mignery said the county started discussing in December 2017 changes to wind power regulations.

For Monday’s meeting she provided commissioners with the existing Adams County regulations as well as regulations from Custer, Merrick, Lincoln, Antelope and Knox counties.

Wind regulations for all those counties are pretty similar.

Adams County small wind energy systems regulations limit tower heights at 80 feet for properties between half an acre and one acre.

Adams County regulations state maximum heights shall be determined by the fall zone and shall not exceed 100 feet. No other counties have that requirement.

All the counties also have similar regulations for commercial wind energy systems.

However, towers in Adams County shall not exceed 300 feet for the tower and 400 feet for the entire structure.

No other counties limit height of commercial turbines.

Representing Omaha firm Bluestem Energy Solutions, Hastings lawyer Mike Sullivan addressed Adams County’s current height restrictions for wind turbines during Monday’s meeting.

Bluestem is the company that worked with Central Community College-Hastings and Hastings Utilities on the erection of the wind turbine on the CCC campus.

Sullivan was accompanied by Bluestem representatives project manager Will Greene and environmental compliance officer Chris Shank.

He said most commercial towers are 500 feet or more. Even a taller height restriction soon could be obsolete.

The easiest fix, he said, is to take out the requirements of 300 and 400 feet so there would be no height restriction.

Any wind power project would require a conditional use permit and be taken on a case-by-case basis and would require county approval.

“So you don’t really lose anything by eliminating the height,” he said.

Highway Superintendent Dawn Miller told the commissioners they need to consider other wind turbine factors such as vibrations and shadowing in addition to the height.

She encouraged board members to also look at setbacks while looking at tower heights.

“They need to know what a possible setback would be from a residence before they go hunting for property,” she said.

The current setback in Adams County is 1,000 feet from neighboring dwelling units.

The newly formed committee, which includes Commission Chairman Dean Rolls, Bob Hansen, Mike Allen and Ken Lukasiewicz, will look at wind power regulations and make a recommendation to the commission as a whole.

Also during the meeting, commissioners:

- Voted 6-0 to recommend approval of amending the comprehensive plan for the village of Ayr and rezone block 22 and 27 in Ayr and vacated Archer and Railroad streets from residential to industrial. Commissioners Henry Wilson, Brad Henrie and Belva Junker were absent.

- Unanimously recommended approval of the Ayr Shop Subdivision

- Unanimously recommended approval of the Conditional Use Permit request of Butch and Donna Hogan of 627 North Shore Drive for residence and retail business in mixed use district at Lot 2 of the West Fork North 4th Addition just off of U.S. Highway 281. The Hogans look to establish a retro automotive collectible store on the property with their residence in the back of the building. The commissioners recommended three conditions for the property including single family use, owner-occupied use and the presence of a domestic well and approved septic system.

- Scheduled the commission’s September meeting for Sept. 10.

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