There were more questions than answers at the Antelope County Supervisor meeting on Tuesday concerning the ongoing discussion of the conditional use permit for the Upstream Wind Energy project.
Antelope County Airport Authority Chairman Rick Schindler addressed the board, recommending that Antelope County adopts LB140 to protect the Antelope County Airport with the prospective wind turbine project.
Schindler said he was concerned about protected the airport’s all-weather approach.
“As it stands now, they (Invenergy) can put up towers wherever they want, and we could lose our approach,” Schindler said.
There are 64 proposed towers in question that exceed height regulations, according to Schindler. However, even as the towers exceed the height, that could not disqualify them from being built.
“They are all a little high, but that’s not enough to disqualify them,” Schindler said.
Schindler said adopting LB140 would keep eight towers out of the approach that exceed 150 feet in height. This would prohibit construction within three miles of the runway as well as within 10 miles from the runway in their all-weather approach. As regulation are written now, Antelope County’s zoning currently does not limit the height of structures within the 10-mile approach zone.
Upstream Project Developer Emily Kobylarczyk said that Invenergy has been working with Joe McNally, who serves on the airport authority, to be in compliance with the state statute and said the project will be compliant regardless of whether or not Antelope County adopts LB140.
Concern over county zoning regulations didn’t end with the airport. Dean Smith presented concerns and comments about the hiring of a new zoning administrator as well as with the Upstream project, which he said is the second largest project in the state.
Smith raised concerns about discrepancies within the Upstream project. Smith asked he didn’t understand the reasoning given for eight landowners to have not received notice about the first public hearing. Smith said the answer of county assessor’s addresses not being up to date didn’t make sense to him when those individuals did receive their property tax notices.
“Do you think you have the right to know the complete, accurate number of the industrial wind towers being built?” he asked.
Smith also referred to the zoning meeting held on February 29 where PST/Pillen Family Farms was on the agenda to amend the zoning regulations pertaining to the three-acre requirement for residential dwellings. He said the meeting took 2 1/2 hours for one side to present maps and neighbor information and for the board to ask questions.
He asked, “How does an agricultural business in an agricultural county come under such scrutiny, and an out of state industrial wind tower company float right through?”
Smith later questioned the turbines’ being FAA compliant and what that could mean for Antelope County, especially since the airport just receive funding for a $2.7 million runway project.
“If these towers get built out of compliance with FAA, all the money, all the federal funding that airport has ever been received will be paid back to the federal government by the county,” Smith said.
Smith urged the supervisors to take a closer look at the wind turbine regulations and keep that in mind with the hiring of a new zoning administrator.
“As you proceed forward on this conditional use application, I suggest you as a board do your due diligence to the lifelong residents of Antelope County that have lived here fore five generations or more, and they live here at least in part because of the clear, open skies,” Smith said.
The only action that took place at the meeting in regard to Invenergy was the county’s resolution to accept $300,000 from the company to repair a section of the road.
County Attorney Joe Abler said that 517 Avenue and 839 Road are designated in the road agreement between the company and the county where Invenergy takes responsibility for the damages caused by the Prairie Breeze projects.
They came back to the county in December and January with estimates to fix damages. They have offered to give $300,000 to put into a fund for the county to contract themselves or someone else for repairs.
Abler explained the resolution to the board as it says the county finds it beneficial to accept the $300,000 to a designated account to contract it or fix it and to cover the expense of making repairs.
“Invenergy has leased that portion of the 517 Avenue and 839 Road to make the repairs underneath that agreement,” Abler said.