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1,320 feet, 45 decibels; wind farm development agreement approved
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1,320 feet, 45 decibels; wind farm development agreement approved

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Mark Wengierski

Mark Wengierski (sitting on bench at right in background) with Scout Clean Energy, discusses with the Crawford County Board of Supervisors a development agreement setting the setback distance and decibel volume for the siting of wind turbine towers. Photo by Dan Mundt

The Crawford County Board of Supervisors on Monday afternoon approved a voluntary development agreement with Scout Clean Energy for the wind farm the company is developing in an area south of Westside.

The agreement followed nearly two months of discussions with the company, which has been developing the “Silver Queen” wind farm project since 2016.

On April 27, the supervisors enacted a temporary moratorium on the construction of new wind turbine towers; the supervisors are gathering information to determine what changes they might make to the county ordinance that regulates the construction of wind turbine towers.

The moratorium will expire on July 1.

At the supervisors meeting on June 22, Mark Wengierski, Scout Clean Energy director of development, told the supervisors that the Silver Queen project should be grandfathered in to the current ordinance; he said a new ordinance could interfere with the project, or cause the company to abandon the project for which $4 million has already been spent.

Wengierski suggested the supervisors consider the development agreement he had offered two weeks earlier; the supervisors agreed.

The supervisors met at 9 a.m. Monday with representatives of Scout Clean Energy, and several members of the public who own property in the project area, to go over the proposed development agreement.

The agreement states that the setback of turbines from an occupied residence will be 1,320 feet; setbacks from county and township roads, and from transmission lines, will be 1.1 times the wind turbine tip height.

The sound level of a turbine will not exceed 45 decibels at residences occupied as of the start of construction, unless waived in writing by the owner of the residence.

Supervisor Ty Rosburg said Assistant Crawford County Attorney Martha Sibbel (who was not present) had asked for clarification on how the decibel readings would be determined - whether Scout Clean Energy would handle it or if it would be up to a representative of the county zoning board.

Wengierski said it could be handled either way and that he was not partial to either remedy.

Rosburg suggested that the company could handle the initial complaint, and the zoning board could become involved if a dispute continues.

Wengierski agreed with the suggestion; the company would handle the initial complaint.

“We’d take noise readings over a two-week period and we would show either (A) we’re operating under the agreement, or (B) those turbines aren’t operating as they should be and we’re out of compliance, and then we’d have to remedy it,” he said.

The company has a range of actions that could be taken if a turbine is making too much noise, he said.

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A continued dispute would go back to the county.

Supervisor Kyle Schultz said he thought that was a fair way to handle such a situation.

Sibbel also requested a change to the timeline for county approval; the initial proposal was for the county to consider any project approval request within 10 days of receipt.

She suggested 30 to 45 days as a response time.

Wengierski agreed to amend the agreement to set the response time to within 30 business days.

Rosburg asked if the company had worked out agreements with the landowners who had raised concerns about the project.

Supervisor Jean Heiden asked if the agreement with those landowners would be a part of the development agreement.

“We can add it as an enhancement to the development agreement - that we will use our best efforts to remedy the concerns that these landowners have brought up - to reach something that is agreeable with them and us,” Wengierski said.

He said the arrangement with the landowners would have to be a “commercially reasonable agreement.”

“What we’re trying to accomplish (is) being able to move these turbines as far as we can from the residences, while still keeping those turbines on the neighbor’s property that signed,” Wengierski said. “We’re trying to strike that balance. We’re trying to hear the concerns - trying to push them as far away as possible. I think we’re there.”

The supervisors moved toward voting on the development agreement in the Monday morning session, but Schultz said he would be more comfortable voting on the agreement after the above language was included.

The supervisors recessed until 1 p.m., when Wengierski presented an agreement document with all the requested changes.

The supervisors voted 5-0 to accept the development agreement.

Heiden noted that the supervisors will continue to work on a revised wind tower construction ordinance.

Wengierski thanked the supervisors and the landowners for helping to find an agreement.

Several of the landowners with disputes thanked the supervisors and the company for working through the issue.

Wengierski told the Bulletin and Review that he couldn’t reveal what the setbacks would be for the disputed properties, but that they would be greater than 1,320 feet.

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