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Marjorie Jean Rastede
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Winds of change

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Commissioners consider turbine setbacks

HARTINGTON — The Cedar County commissioners don’t want to throw caution to the wind.

The Cedar County Zoning Board approved changes related to wind turbine setbacks at a meeting last week. The next day, the Cedar County commissioners met and tabled the same, saying they wanted time to review the changes.

The item will be back on the agenda for the next commissioners meeting April 26.

“I’m just saying wait until the next meeting and let it roll around our heads a little bit,” said Commissioner Dave McGregor. “I don’t think it’s going to change anything probably. I’d just like to read through it again.”

The commissioners spent a considerable amount of time discussing the changes with Zoning Administrator Tim Gobel. About 30 people attended a public hearing hosted by the zoning board April 11. After the meeting, the board approved changes to setback provisions to allow turbines one mile away for a nonparticipating dwelling and one-half mile for a participating dwelling. All setbacks are waiverable by the zoning board.

The zoning board also adopted guidelines related to the decommissioning of wind turbines after one year without energy production with requirements that the site be restored within 18 months.

The zoning board has been unanimous in their opinion against wind turbines from the beginning, Gobel said.

And the large majority of the people in attendance at the public hearing felt the same, Gobel said.

“Most of these people wanted more than a mile setback - they wanted two miles,” he said. “If they want it, they can still get it … I don’t see where in the county it’s a good place to have a cluster of them.”

Gobel said the zoning board wants to respect rural areas that are zoned and planned for agriculture and he sees the wind turbine as industrial.

“If we were in a city, you would not have a privately owned power generation station 500 feet from your house, 600 feet from your house or even a quarter mile from your house,” he said. “I always go back to our comprehensive plan. And the comprehensive plan is to leave the rural area as agriculture. Wind towers are industrial as they get. And we’re taking an industrial and putting into areas we want for our ag.”

Board of Commissioners Chairman Craig Bartels agreed.

“They can call it a wind farm but it’s not a farm ... A wind farm producing electricity, it’s a different production. It is more of an industrial type thing,” he said.

He estimates about 80 percent of residents in his district are against wind turbines.

Gobel said the other most common reaction is indifference with no strong opinion either way.

Although the commissioners want to take another look before approving the new zoning guidelines, Bartels said he has complete confidence in the zoning board’s decision.

“We’ve got the zoning board for a reason — to make these calls,” Bartels said.

At its meeting last week, commissioners also discussed purchasing two used vehicles from the Legacy Garden Rehabilitation & Living Center in Pender to be used for Cedar County Transit. The Pender nursing home will be closing next month.

One vehicle is a 12-passenger bus with two-wheelchair capability with only 1,700 miles. The county’s cost for the bus would be $9,700. The other vehicle is a used van with 50,000 miles and the county’s share of the costs at $6,200.

Although two new vehicles have been ordered for the transit it may be quite awhile before they arrive due to nationwide shortages.

“We can’t get vehicles for some reason and it takes so long for them to be converted to handicapped,” said Cedar County Clerk Dave Dowling.

There will always be a need to replace aging vehicles, he said.

The commissioners agreed to move forward with purchasing the vehicles from Pender if they are still available.

The commissioners also:

- Approved building permits for John Lammers for a 70-by-85-foot shed; Leo Burbach for a 10-by-20-foot shed; Dale Kinkaid for a 40-by-50-foot shop; Michael Schmit for a 215-by-15-foot feed bunk and a 11-foot deep silage pit, and a 112-by-72-foot shed; and Carl Pinkelman for a new home.

- Approved conditional use permits for Nick McKim, split and selling 6.69 acres near Coleridge; Josh Graham, split 20 acres near Randolph area; and Radiant Bridge RV Resort for 100 campsites near Crofton area.

- Approved a farm sale as presented by Assessor Becky Dresden.

- Heard a report by Weed Superintendent Justin Heikes.

- Heard a report from Treasurer Jean Wiebelhaus.