County looks at aspects of wind ordinance


“I want to make sure ...everybody fully understands.”

-Terry Ferguson

County land use chairman

CLINTON — On Monday, members of the county board’s land use committee discussed a number of items in regard to the county’s wind energy ordinance.  In the end, state’s attorney Dan Markwell recommended individual members approach the Regional Planning Commission (RPC) as private citizens if they want it to reexamine particular points of the ordinance.

Several of the items concerning the wind ordinance land use members talked about would require text amendment changes.

Normally, the land use committee would make a recommendation to the full county board, which would then send it on to the RPC, the lead group in considering county ordinance changes.

Markwell suggested it would save time if land use members who had concerns would approach the RPC on their own, not as board members.

Among the issues raised Monday by land use chairman Terry Ferguson, he said there seemed to be some confusion about whether drainage issues were addressed during the special use permit application process.  A wind energy company must obtain a special use permit to erect wind turbine towers in the county.

“I guess, by following our document, that’s not supposed to take place until the building permit,” Ferguson said.

There is a portion of the county code at that point requiring details of all existing easements.

“I wanted to make sure that, for future reference, everybody fully understands,” Ferguson said.  “That part doesn’t take place until the building permit is involved.”

See“The drainage districts don’t have any say during the special use process,” Markwell said.  “But, once the wind farm comes in and they apply for their building permits, they’re going to have to give notice to all these folks.”

Markwell said at that point, if there were a problem with an easement or drainage, “that’s when they could come in and file an injunction if things aren’t right.”

Ferguson pointed out that usual procedures followed for special use permit applications do not require public notification once a building permit application is filed.

“If the intent was to have this work kind of like a special use permit, it would seem that some of this site plan stuff ought to be part of the special use permit and not the building permit,” he said.

Zoning administrator Angie Sarver suggested it could be handled as an inspection.

“Our wind ordinance actually states that we have a licensed engineer that oversees all of it,” Sarver said.  “And, we choose that engineer; it has to be voted by the county that it would be part of his responsibility.”

The wind farm developer involved to pay that expense.

Ferguson said he wanted to make sure people understood that issues involving drainage come during the building permit stage and not the special use permit application stage.

Sarver said part of the problem with the recent wind farm special use permit application was Attachment R of the application asking for the option to move towers within several hundred feet of the locations marked in the plan.

She said that flexibility could cause a problem with drainage, among other aspects of the project, “because you don’t have a specific spot, you don’t know for certain where it’s going to be.”

The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) felt that towers should remain in the locations specified by the plan because of noise and safety concerns.

Sarver said, in that case, the wind energy developer submitted its attachment with the special use permit application as required by the ordinance.

Sarver and Markwell concurred that the ordinance was clear about what was required for special use permits and building permits.

Ferguson said he was not necessarily advocating for a text amendment change but wanted to be clear what was required at what point in the application process.