JEFFERSON COUNTY, NE — After taking its last two meetings to decide what changes to make to its recommendations on wind energy regulations in the county, the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Commission will have a public hearing over its proposed changes Thursday.

The committee will meet in the Jefferson County courthouse's district courtroom to accommodate a larger audience. The meeting will start at 7 p.m.

The sole purpose for the meeting is to hold a public hearing over the committee's proposed changes to Jefferson County's wind energy zoning regulations. The regulations were originally adopted in 2013 and are the regulations the Steele Flats wind farm abide by. That wind farm will be grandfathered in with the old regulations and will not have abide by any new regulations passed.

A list of the proposed changes is listed below:

Proposed changes to be heard at the March 9 Public Hearing:

  • Change setback of turbines from non-participating landowner’s home from one-quarter mile to one mile.
  • Change setback of turbines from non-participating landowner’s property line from 600 feet to one-half mile
  • Keep setback limit from participating landowner’s home at 1.1x the height of the turbine
  • Add a setback limit from schools, churches, incorporated towns and state-owned recreation areas of one mile (this regulation would be new if adopted by the county commissioners)
  • Change timeline for removal of commercial wind energy project from 90 days to 18 months from discontinuation of use of project
  • Change authority to extend decommissioning timeline and approving decommissioning plan outline from Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Administrator to Jefferson County Commissioners

Recommended Changes already approved by Jefferson County Commissioners in 2022:

  • Changing sound level limit of turbine measured from nearest occupied residence from 60 to 50 decibels
  • Implement NO setback requirement on property lines of adjoining landowners participating in the same project
  • Changing setback requirement of turbines form county road, railway and state highway right of ways from 25 feet from the edge of the rotor blade to 1.1x the height of the turbine system
  • Changing night time lighting system from solid red light to one only activated by an aircraft detection lighting system that meets FAA standards

The Jefferson County Commissioners have the final say on whether or not the proposed changes are put into place. They will hold a public hearing of their own on March 23 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds 4H building. 

A moratorium on applications for permits for any future wind energy projects in the county is set to expire April 1.