JEFFERSON COUNTY, NE — Between the courtroom setting and lawyers presenting arguments Thursday’s planning and zoning meeting in Jefferson County had a trial feel to it.

On the docket? Wind farm regulations a topic the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Committee has been tasked with deliberating for over a year. 

Only four people gave comment to the committee, two NextEra representatives and two attorneys representing local wind farm opponents. All four requested to speak before the meeting and were on the agenda. The committee held public comment at a meeting two weeks ago.

Setbacks were the big focus. Legal representatives for wind energy opponents, known locally as the Jefferson County Wind Watchers, made the case for a one-mile setback from the home of someone not participating in the project. 

NextEra Energy argued for a setback limited to three times (3x) the total height of the turbine system, which is roughly one-third of a mile for a 600 foot tower. 

The recommendation heading into the night was five times (5x) the total height of the system from a non-participating landowner's residence. That equates to over half a mile for a 600 foot tower.

After hearing from both sides and deliberating for about two hours, it was the opponents who narrowly won the night. The committee voted 5-4 in favor of recommending a setback limit of one mile from a non-participating landowner's home and one-half mile from the property line of a non-participating landowner's home. 

Before deciding on this, the committee took a vote on amending the one mile portion of the proposed change to three times (3x), five times (5x) and nine times (9x) the height of the system from a non-participating household. All three motions failed. 

This is simply a recommendation. The Jefferson County Commissioners have the final say on what regulations go into place. 

Regulations in place when the Steele Flats wind farm was established had setbacks from non-participating landowners' homes at 1,320 feet, or one-quarter mile. That project is grandfathered in with those old regulations. 

The committee also voted to keep its previous recommendation of a setback of 1.1x the height of the turbine system from a participating landowner's home. 

Both these topics were returned to the committee by the county commissioners last March, when commissioners last voted on wind energy regulations. 

There are still several topics for the committee to mull over. They include, setbacks from schools, churches and recreational areas, shadow flicker limits and decommissioning. 

They will meet next on Feb. 9, at 7 p.m.

Jefferson County currently has a moratorium in place on wind turbine permit applications. It is set to expire April 1. 

To hear comments from NextEra and the Wind Watchers counsel from Thursday night, watch the video above. Check back for a full transcript from the video above.