BEATRICE – The Gage County Board has voted 5-2 to extend a moratorium on wind and solar energy project permit applications, through July 15th. The moratorium was set to expire January 15th.

The extension gives more time for the county’s planning and zoning commission to discuss potential wind energy regulation changes. Last year, the Gage County Board approved increasing the setback for wind turbines from homes, to one mile, after considerable feedback from rural residents in northern Gage County.
Supervisor Emily Haxby, of Clatonia wonders whether an extra six months is enough time, based on discussion by the planning commission Tuesday night.

"When the six-month moratorium was brought up, they felt like it was going to be hard to get that done in six months, because they do have a little more discussion to do and they'll have a public hearing. Then we have a public hearing. I mean, realistically I just think we revisit it in six months."

Among the issues the commission would look at is setback distance from structures other than just rural homes, whether that should be from the structure or property line, and any potential adjustments to rules regarding turbine noise.

Supervisor Don Schuller expressed concern about the amount of time already spent on the issue.
"Delaying answers also delays if we do where say the south part of the county is more attractive for companies to come in to do a wind farm...or add onto a wind farm. This is holding them back from filing that application...and progress is waiting."

Schuller and Board member Gary Lytle voted in opposition to the six-month moratorium extension. Lytle feels things could move along more quickly.
"All you need is time for planning and zoning to look at it, recommend that they need to look at it further or this is the directioin they're going to go. We don't need to wait six months to have them look at it and then come back and say okay, this is what we want to look at...this is what we want to look at doing. Six months is just too long."

County Board Chairman Eric Tiemann has doubts the issue can be hashed out, within six months…..given the review, public hearing process and decisions at both the zoning commission and county board levels.  With the extension, the total on the moratorium on new wind and solar project permits will have lasted nine months.