Turbines Too Close? County resident gains support over zoning concerns

One man just wants to be heard.

Pending official approval in the coming months, NextEra Energy Resources is planning to build the second of a two part wind farm project, and it will affect residents in portions of Hettinger County.

Jon Wert is concerned that people who don’t want to participate in the wind farm project will be greatly affected if their neighbor signs up to house a turbine. (Herald File Photo)
Jon Wert is concerned that people who don’t want to participate in the wind farm project will be greatly affected if their neighbor signs up to house a turbine. (Herald File Photo)

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

The Brady Wind II will be in Stark County with some overflow into the Clark and Kunze Townships of Hettinger County, and Jon Wert is concerned about how some zoning ordinances will effect those not wishing to participate in the project.

Wert, a Clark Township resident, was listening to concerns that some Stark County residents voiced during the early process of the Brady Wind I, which is only in Stark County.

He did some research and discovered that per current zoning ordinances in Hettinger County, the wind turbines are only required to be a quarter of a mile away from a residential structure, a relatively short distance when compared to a 400-foot turbine.

After talking to some of the township residents he realized most people didn’t know the details of the ordinances, and they were surprised. He decided that further action was warranted.

“Most of the people can’t believe that it’s only a quarter of a mile setback,” Wert said

His petition states that the zoning committee should change the ordinance from a quarter of a mile to one mile.

So far he has had a majority of the area residents’ support. Of the 60 residents between the two townships, he has gathered 45 signatures. Wert said he has been working on this for nearly three weeks and has mostly been on the phone and going door to door for the support.

But Wert wanted to make sure that people know this petition is not meant to hinder the wind farm. In fact, out of the 45 signatures he has received, 13 of the names have actually signed up to participate in the wind farm project.

“It’s not designed to stop the wind farm,” Wert said. “It’s just designed to protect the people that don’t want one really close to their place of residence.”

The way the ordinance is set up, a person could have their house adjacent to the property line. And if the neighbor signs up to participate in the project, a turbine could essentially sit right in the back yard of the person wishing not to participate.

Wert said this petition is there to protect those non-participating Hettinger County residents, even wording it to indicate those residents specifically.

“If somebody wants to put a turbine in their backyard they can, but this way it protects the neighbors who don’t want one,” Wert said. “It’s only going to be from a non-participating residence.”

Wert had planned to attend the zoning committee meeting on Wednesday to show them the results of his petition, and hopefully to realize there is real concern among their citizens, and possibly make some changes.

“(I’m going to) try to convince them basically that they need to protect these people who don’t want a turbine right in their back yard,” Wert said. “By raising this issue hopefully I can bring it to the forefront and get them to change it.”

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