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Is a half-mile enough in Union Township?

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GINA R. HEINE
May 30, 2008
— A man who lives near a wind farm in Fond du Lac County drove down for a hearing Thursday night to encourage Union Township to enact an ordinance that would require turbines to be at least a half-mile from homes.

About 60 people packed the basement of Eager Free Public Library for the hearing on the draft ordinance, which would keep turbines at least a half-mile from homes and effectively eliminate plans for a three-turbine project in the township. Thirty people spoke.


After the 90-minute hearing, plan commission members decided they need to discuss the proposal further and will schedule a study session before they make recommendations to the town board.


Gerry Myer was one of two Fond du Lac area residents who attended the hearing. He has three turbines around his house—the closest being 1,560 feet—as part of an 86-turbine project that went online this spring in Byron Township in Fond du Lac County


Myer said he walked out of his house one day and looked up to see the jet he heard.


“It wasn’t a jet; it was a turbine,” he said of the first day they went on.


He said he can hear all three of the turbines from in his house, and he’s keeping a log of when and where he can hear each turbine. As a mailman, he said he talks to customers along his route and hasn’t had one that’s happy with the turbines.


“I recommend you adopt this or even make it a further distance because you are in charge of the health and safety of your constituents,” he said.


EcoEnergy, the wind developer proposing the project, and Wisconsin Public Power, the company that would buy the power, brought five people to voice their opposition to the ordinance as drafted.


Plan commission member Doug Lee asked the representatives if they had ever lived near or spent considerable time next to a turbine. Some remained silent, while one said he grew up next to a coal plant and one spent two weeks among wind farms in Iowa.


“I think we got an answer, and the answer is no,” commission member Doug Zweizig said.


Curt Bjurlin, project developer for EcoEnergy, said the ordinance contained “a lot of statements that are simply not true,” including references to EcoEnergy. The proposal would not allow the wind project to go forward, he said.


“Really, what you have in front of you is a prohibitive ordinance. It’s really no different than a moratorium on wind energy,” he said.


He presented the commission with documents related to sound levels, setbacks and other recommendations.


Tom Alisankus, the chairman of the citizen committee that studied wind energy and drafted the ordinance, objected to EcoEnergy “coming in at the last minute” with information that the committee wanted from the start.


He urged the commission to not accept the material or have it go through the citizen committee first.


Here’s a sampling of other comments Thursday night:


-- “I don’t think anybody’s anti-wind. We just want it done responsibly,” said Scott McElroy, a member of the wind study committee. “I don’t have a problem with wind, but I don’t think it needs to be so close to me or you where it presents a problem.


“Once these things are up, there’s nothing you can do. Don’t call the police, and I’m serious,” said McElroy, who also is the police chief, to a round of laughter.


-- Robin Ringhand said a turbine is proposed next to her home where she lives with three children under age 8.


“I would like to see more than a half-mile because a half-mile doesn’t give a little kid a lot of distance when they’re looking up,” she said.


-- Harold Abey, who has signed a contract with EcoEnergy to have turbines on his property, referred to a successful project in Iowa in which turbines were less than 1,000 feet from a school.


“I see no reason that wind turbines in the Union Township would need to have a setback of more than 1,000 feet,” he said.


-- Union resident Mindy Larson said the noise is a concern, but she said she lives in the middle of a field and hears tractors and combines all night.


“But it’s something that I’ve accepted being out in the country, and I think that once everybody can get used to it (turbines), and realizes that this is a good thing for our township, that they would probably accept it,” she said.



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