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Union wind recommendations could be used in state discussions

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GINA R. HEINE
February 2, 2008
— A draft wind ordinance developed by a town of Union committee should be an example state officials consider during discussions of state wind turbine siting standards, state Rep. Brett Davis said.

Because wind energy regulation is a controversial statewide issue, Davis said he will push for a legislative council study committee to discuss the issue.


“I think there are so many competing interests that are involved from all different sides that everyone needs to sit down at a table and really work through this,” he said.


Davis, R-Oregon, met with members of the Town of Union Wind Study Committee over the past few months while they researched and developed a draft ordinance regulating wind energy. Committee chair Tom Alisankus presented the recommendations to the plan commission Thursday night.


Wind turbines in the township would need to be at least one-half mile from homes and 1,000 feet from property lines, according to the committee’s draft ordinance.


“I think the people that were working on the ordinance did a good job in terms of the background and reasoning,” Davis said. “(They) based and grounded it in fact.”


The town of Union committee’s recommendations should be considered if a state committee is formed, he said, and local residents could sit on such a committee.


Davis said he’s not suggesting the state come up with specific regulations, but said the state’s model ordinance is potentially outdated.


The Union committee brought legitimate questions to the state on how it developed the model ordinance, Davis said, and officials could not answer them appropriately.


“Which raises some red flags and needs to be revisited in terms of how to move forward,” he said.


State officials and interested parties met this week to discuss establishing a process for a state model, similar to the state’s new livestock siting law, said Richard Stadelman, executive director of the Wisconsin Towns Association.


Stadelman has reviewed the town of Union’s proposed ordinance and said it is very detailed. Since the setbacks are less than other ordinances in the state, he said the proposal would be more defendable.


Trempealeau County, for example, passed an ordinance in December with setbacks of 1 mile from homes, he said.


But Curt Bjurlin, Wisconsin project developer for EcoEnergy, said the proposed setbacks eliminate any land in Union Township for a wind energy project. EcoEnergy is proposing to build three turbines there.


“We think the draft ordinance that was presented was designed to ensure that the project wouldn’t go forward—that the status quo of how we make energy today would continue,” he said.


Alisankus disagreed, saying that’s the opposite of what happened.


When he was asked to chair the committee, Alisankus said he did so with the agreement that personal feelings would be put aside and the facts of the research would be the basis for recommendations.


The committee wanted its ordinance to be able to withstand challenges from the wind industry, so it had outside lawyers review it and let the facts lead the discussion, he said.



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