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Voters uphold stricter setbacks for wind turbines

In a special Referendum Election held Tuesday, July 18th voters in Lincoln County determined whether to support the Lincoln County zoning ordinance of a new set back requirement for wind energy conversion system (WECS) tower structures. The vote, although close, was in support of the stricter setback requirement of 2,640 feet from the closest exterior wall of any habitable structure.

County wide results were 3,672 in favor of the stricter setback and 2,704 against the ordinance. In the City of Tea 305 votes were cast and of those only 112 supported the ordinance, while 193 voted no.

Tea, Sioux Falls and Harrisburg precincts had the lowest voter turnouts with the majority of votes coming from southern Lincoln County.

The vote comes after Lincoln County Commissioners studied the topic for three years. Groups on both sides of the issue were vocal on arguments for and against the further setback requirements. Wind energy developers and promoters gained enough signatures through a petition drive to bring it to a county-wide vote.

We-Care, an organization that was in support of the stricter set-back released a statement saying, “This referendum vote is not about banning wind energy in Lincoln County. In fact, the updated ordinance that the Commissioners approved allows a waiver that can be granted by a landowner to allow an industrial wind turbine closer than the recommended distance between a home and turbine. This is not about being for or against wind energy or renewable energy. What this ordinance is about is allowing wind energy into Lincoln County and ensuring guidelines are in place to form some protection for the County and its citizens from the negative effects of industrial wind energy. This is no different than the zoning laws that are currently in place in the County and town’s that don’t allow industrial activity in residential districts; or any other form of zoning that is established.”

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