Comprehensive plan will create map for county’s development

Article Image Alt Text

An issue that stirred considerable emotion and debate three years ago in Hamilton County is back on the agenda.
One of the key questions to be contemplated this week is should large commercial wind turbines be allowed in Hamilton County, and if so what regulations should be in place regarding setbacks and other criteria designed to protect neighbors from potential impact to their health and property values.
Discussion on those issues got heated back in July of 2016 when a proposal involving Omaha-based Bluestem Energy Solutions and Southern Power District raised people’s ire. That project, if approved, would place four large wind turbines just south of Interstate 80 near Aurora.
County commissioners made a wise decision back in July of 2016, in effect hitting the pause button. The county’s comprehensive plan at that time was approved in the 1970s, thus there was no timely language addressing a number of modern-day issues, including wind energy development. Commissioners hired a consultant and authorized a process that would ultimately lead to a proposed new comprehensive plan, in addition to new zoning and subdivision regulations.
To the county board’s credit, the process included all area villages, prompting public hearings and conversations over the past three years about how and where development, including new residential housing, should be allowed in Hamilton County. The City of Aurora, it should be noted, is not included in the proposal because it has its own comprehensive plan.
There have been numerous public hearings on the various planning and village boards over the past three years, though truth be told none were well attended. This is the kind of document many pay little attention to until a project comes up that may impact them personally.
One of the points of contention raised in 2016 is that this specific wind energy proposal came out of nowhere, and that local residents might have little say in the final decision. On that note, a 7 p.m. public hearing scheduled for Monday at the fairgrounds should draw considerable interest because it offers the perfect opportunity to speak up and be heard now, while regulations are being written and reviewed.
Input from a county planning commission public hearing last month hints that there will be a lot of eyes on county commissioners. Though no threats were issued, it became clear that regulations either allowing wind turbines or banning them altogether could prompt legal challenges.
It is important that community members engage in this important process, taking the time to read the proposed regulations in advance and share their views with county commissioners. (See related story in this edition about how to download or get a printed copy of the document.)
This plan, once approved, will create policy and guidelines for countywide development in the years ahead.
Kurt Johnson

Rate this article: 
No votes yet