UNION TOWNSHIP, ROCK COUNTY, WISCONSIN
Union Town board unanimously approves large wind ordinance including comprehensive sound level limits and safety setbacks
On November 13, the Union town board unanimously voted to adopt regulations governing noise limits and setbacks pertaining to industrial scale wind turbines.
With this vote, the board brought to a close a controversial issue involving the safe placement of industrial turbines within the town of Union. The vote comes just months before the expected intense political wrangling by some members of the State legislature who seek to assign all wind siting authority to the Public Service Commission, leaving local governments out of the process.
" I would like to see more control at the local level" said Union Town Board Chairman Donald Krajeck. "Every local situation is different and has to be looked at on its own."
And that's exactly what Union is trying to accomplish, said Tom Alisankus, a municipal judge and member of the town of Union's Large Wind Study Committee. "This ordinance could empower other small municipalities abound the state. There is considerable pressure on communities to follow the State's recommendations of turbine placement. Our research found the standards developed by the state for noise and setbacks were woefully insufficient in regard to health and safety issues," Alisankus added.
Says Cathy Bembinster, another member of the Wind Study Committee, "I think a big win here is that a town government actually got involved in the final draft of a wind ordinance and made the health and safety of the citizens of the town their top priority. True dedication. How does that saying go? 'Government has an intrinsic duty to protect the public health and safety of its citizens.' They sure did that."
Alisankus adds, "I honestly believe the ordinance is sound and very defendable in court. The state had its chance (to create wind power standards) but it couldn't cut it."
An open records request from the town of Union study committee revealed that no medical or scientific data was used to set the 50 decibel noise limits or the 1000 foot setback the Public Service Commission recommends. Questions about the origins and authors of the State's draft model wind ordinance remain largely unanswered. The State has since pulled the draft model ordinance from its website and the Public Service Commission has been unable or unwilling to say who pulled the ordinance from the website and why. This draft model ordinance was used to site the turbines in Fond du Lac county where people are experiencing trouble with turbine related noise, shadow flicker and other negative impacts.
Union is the sixth Wisconsin township to adopt an a wind ordinance with a 2640 foot setback and noise limits. Magnolia township adopted a similar wind ordinance in July of 2008. Several Rock County townships are now looking at adopting wind ordinances which will provide the same protection for local residents.