Testimony of Sam Tobias
Director of Planning and Parks
Fond du Lac County

Before the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules
February 9, 2011

(starts at 3:45:30 pm on Wisconsin Eye)

Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today — chairs and committee members as well.

I’ve been with Fond du Lac County for 25 years in a couple of different roles but at this point I’m with the county planning and parks director. You have to know just a bit about Fond du Lac County to understand where I’m coming from and what’s been happening in Fond du Lac. In our county we do not have county zoning, every town in our county, all 21, each has their own individual zoning ordinance. They administer their zoning ordinances. At times, with wind siting issues especially, they depend heavily on their attorney, and they all pretty much use the same attorney. They’ve come up with pretty much the model that’s being used in the PSC rule. And it’s worked very well, and that’s my point here today is we’ve been a test-bed so to speak in Fond du Lac.

The program has worked in Fond du Lac County. Why do I say that? The six town boards in Fond du Lac County that are the six towns that are host to wind turbine projects are all still in place. If this were truly a monumental issue, and truly had widespread health effects, and hazards, nature hazards, those types of things, I don’t think those six town boards would be in place today, but they are.

We’re home to three major utility scale wind turbine projects — 168 turbines, 268 MW of electricity capacity. Again, the towns, the 8,000 to almost 9,000 town residents, that are involved in these facilities. We don’t have 8,000 to 9,000 people here today protesting against the rules. There are people with concerns, but it’s not the majority by any stretch of the imagination.

Town government took the lead, as I said previously. In permitting, in regulating wind farms in Fond du Lac County and I think they’ve done a very great job. Again, our setbacks are very similar in our towns as to what’s in our state rule. Utility-scale wind farm in Wisconsin mean a lot to local businesses — from the sandwich supply lunch truck, that comes out to construction sites, to Michels Corporation in Brownsville that’s got 200 people that have been involved in developing wind projects in our county and elsewhere around the state. By their estimations, there are probably four projects out there that are being discussed and are in the works, 100 MW or more each, so there’s projects queued up that need some predictability in outcome, and that’s what this rule does.

I’ll go back to creating a level playing field. This is the same kind of thing that the Wisconsin Realtors Association asked for in ’99 and 2000 – the Wisconsin Smart Growth law. I’m a planner so I supported them in those efforts and that was a big thing that they really wanted. They wanted a level playing field. And I think in this situation, the same rule applies, the same situation applies. Let’s provide a level playing field. We’re not going to have turbines in every corner of the state of Wisconsin. These companies are going to go where the resource is. The resource is fairly limited in our area. . . .

(Q) Thank you for your testimony. You said that the standards that were in place when the wind turbines were put up in Fond du Lac were similar to what were in the PSC. So like a 1,250 foot setback? We’re dealing with something like that?

A) Yes, yes. Setbacks for municipal and civil structures are three times the maximum height of a wind turbine. Setbacks from participating residences can be 600 feet or 1.1 times the turbine height is allowable with written permission from the land owner. The setback from nonparticipating residences is three times the maximum height of the turbine. Setbacks from property lines are 1.1 times the height of the turbine. And setbacks from communications and utility lines is 1.1 times, so it’s similar. If there are some additional consideration to be given, look at what towns in Fond du Lac County have done.

Q) (Senator Leibham) I just want to clarify, are you here on behalf of the County or yourself as an individual?

A) I’m here on behalf of Fond du Lac County. This is an issue we’ve talked over, I’ve talked over with the boss, the county executive Allen Buechel and I’m here with his permission. So I’m speaking on behalf of myself and behalf of Fond du Lac County.