The Monroe County Board plans to place a moratorium on the county’s wind ordinance at its next meeting to allow for revisions.
Once the moratorium – which the commissioners discussed at Monday’s board meeting – is put in place two weeks from now, the county will consider the ordinance null and void.
“They’re not going to allow anything through on a windmill ordinance until the application has been revised again,” Monroe County Zoning Administrator Mike Fausz said.
The county decided to take that step after the Monroe County Fair Wind Coalition presented information on possible issues with the current ordinance.
Those issues include changing wind turbine technology and more studies being done on the negative health impact of wind farms since the county’s ordinance was passed in 2012.
The Fair Wind Coalition is a group of concerned citizens that formed last year to advocate for changes to the ordinance.
Fausz said the coalition has done extensive research on ordinances from northern counties, which Monroe County based its ordinance on.
“Some of the northern counties have realized their ordinances were lax in some of the issues with safety and different things like that,” Fausz explained. “They’ve got all that information, so that’s what the comprehensive plan committee will have to decipher through and decide what they want to do.”
That committee, which is under the direction of the Monroe County Planning Commission, will review each section of the ordinance and communicate with northern counties if it needs more information to determine whether changes should be made.
Fausz estimated that process could take six months to a year so it can be done thoroughly, though there is no guarantee changes will be made.
“Just because they submitted this document that says these are the changes they’d like to see that doesn’t mean we’re going to take their document and say ‘this is it,’” Fausz said. “We have to be fair to the residents and the people concerned, but we have to be fair to the people who may be leasing the property and the developer who wants to put them in.”
Nevertheless, the coalition said it was pleased the county is looking at proposed changes.
“The coalition is pleased that our county government is taking steps to ensure public safety and public health for county residents,” the coalition stated in an email.
Another concerned party is local developer Joe Koppeis, who said he was unaware of this planned moratorium.
“If they think they want to make changes to (the ordinance) or modifications they want to make to it, I would think they would at least discuss those and not blindside me,” Koppeis told the Republic-Times on Tuesday. “There just really has been no communication from them.”
Koppeis spoke last August in a public meeting about his proposal to construct a 50-turbine wind farm near the bluffs south of Valmeyer.
Koppeis is still conducting studies on the project, so he has yet to submit a formal application to the county.
With that in mind, Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann conducted research to ensure the county would not be in legal jeopardy by taking this step since Koppeis has planned to submit an application in the near future.
Hitzemann, who also sought the opinion of the appellate prosecutor’s office, said he determined that since no application has been submitted or approved, the county should be OK.
“My opinion was we shouldn’t have any potential liability problems,” he said.
Hitzemann also noted it is within the county’s power to alter a law or ordinance if it is in the interest of the public good, calling the points raised by the coalition “valid issues.”
“Here we have citizens who have raised issues of an ordinance that’s on the books potentially creating health and safety issues for citizens,” Hitzemann said.
Those issues include plans if a turbine catches fire and the impacts of shadow flicker on residents.
Although it is within the county’s legal right, Koppeis said it should contact him about this change.
“There’s also ethical responsibilities that I think all of us have to follow and operate by,” he said. “I think just common courtesy and common communications, if they were accurate, would certainly help on all parties’ sides.”
Koppeis also emphasized that his company has not acted improperly.
“They put together all the rules and regulations, and we’ve been following them,” he said.