JEFFERSON COUNTY, NE — The time until a final decision is made on commercial wind farm regulations in Jefferson County is quickly approaching. 

The Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Committee will present its recommendations to the Jefferson County Commissioners during their meeting on Tuesday, March 21. The county commissioners will not vote on the regulations Tuesday, however.  

The vote will not come until after the county commissioners have had a chance to hear from the public on the matter. A public hearing on the regulations with the commissioners is set for Thursday, March 23 at the 4H building at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds to accommodate a larger audience.

The public hearing will be exactly one year since the commissioners last voted on proposed regulations from the planning and zoning committee. Some they approved, others were sent back to the committee for further consideration and to give the public more time to give their thoughts. 

Since they will have a hearing particularly on this subject, the commissioners will not hear public comment on the proposed regulations during their regular meeting on March 21.

Any vote on the rules will come at the conclusion of Thursday's public hearing or during the county commissioner's regular meeting on March 28. Commissioners said they have no intention of pushing back a vote further than that. 

A vote on the recommendations would bring an end to an over-year-long process to review and update the zoning rules for commercial wind energy farms in Jefferson County. The Planning and Zoning Committee has spent several months and held multiple meetings gathering public input on the subject before deciding on final recommendations to forward onto the board. 

There is a moratorium in place prohibiting any applications for new commercial wind farms in the county, but it is set to expire April 1. 

Proposed recommendations from Planning and Zoning Committee.

  • 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
  • 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 from 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