Archive for Thursday, July 2, 2009

Commission makes wind turbine process easier

July 2, 2009

Leavenworth County may be getting a little greener.

After four different motions and much discussion to try to resolve the issue of private wind turbines in the county, the Leavenworth County Commissioners will allow James and Karen Oberg to install a wind generator near their home in the 15900 block of Hollingsworth Road.

“Thank you for being the first ones through the door and getting bloody on this,” Commissioner J.C. Tellefson told the Obergs after the lengthy discussion.

The topic of wind turbines came to the commissioners after the Leavenworth County Planning Commission decided that the Obergs needed a special use permit in order to install the turbine. Along with the special use permit were proposed amendments in planning regulations that would establish rules for wind turbines.

Jeff Joseph, planning and zoning director, said some of the regulations were based on commercial communication towers.

Among some of the regulations were a minimum parcel requirement of 10 acres and the requirement of a special use permit for turbines taller than 35 feet. Other regulations are that up to 100 feet, a requirement that turbines not in use for two continuous years be considered abandoned and removed, and the requirement of a surety bond equal to 20 percent of the cost of construction in case the tower needs to be removed. A surety bond is issued by an entity on behalf of a second party and guarantees the second party will fulfill an obligation to a third party. If the obligations are not met, the third party then recovers the losses through the bond.

James Oberg said the total cost for the turbine, including construction costs, was around $17,000.

Tellefson, who showed interest in the Obergs’ plan for a turbine and asked to see it after it was erected, said the regulations were too strict for non-commercial use of wind turbines. He said the county should look at stricter regulations and requirements for wind turbines taller than 100 feet that will be used for commercial energy production, and only require building permits for personal wind turbines.

Tellefson did not see the need for a minimum acreage requirement as long as there was a proper fall zone.

Commissioner John Flower disagreed and said there were parts of the county where houses were too close to each other and he would prefer a minimum acreage requirement.

“Let’s say that this is a townhouse subdivision,” Flower said. “I don’t think we want to be putting up a bunch of wind generations in the backyard.”

Flower then stated he didn’t want one in his backyard or his neighbor’s backyard.

“I didn’t buy the view that I have so somebody could put up some monstrosity next to me,” he said.

In the end, the commissioners unanimously voted to deny the Obergs' request for a special use permit and to refund the $300 application fee. By doing this, the commission showed their disapproval of the special regulations attached to the request but told the Obergs to just apply for a building permit and they could construct the wind turbine.

In the meanwhile, the commissioners have sent back the proposed amendments to the planning commission for review of the acreage requirement, need of special use permits, requirement of surety bonds and the rule of when a turbine is considered abandoned.

The Obergs said they wanted to install the wind turbine to reduce their carbon footprint and take advantage of available tax credits for clean energy.

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