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Panel OKs variances for wind farm

In a heated meeting that lasted until 11 p.m. Tuesday, the Taos County Planning Commission approved variances for a proposed wind farm, contrary to the county planning staff's recommendation. The commission voted 5-2 to grant Taos attorney and Centinel Bank founder Eliu Romero height and landscape variances and a major land-development permit for a 27-turbine wind farm west of Taos.

Proposed turbines west of Taos draw criticism from neighbors

In a heated meeting that lasted until 11 p.m. Tuesday, the Taos County Planning Commission approved variances for a proposed wind farm, contrary to the county planning staff's recommendation.

The commission voted 5-2 to grant Taos attorney and Centinel Bank founder Eliu Romero height and landscape variances and a major land-development permit for a 27-turbine wind farm west of Taos.

But the commissioners added 31 conditions to their approval, including a 500-foot minimum between a turbine and the closest property line, consultation with the state Department of Game and Fish and a decommissioning plan. "That's very important because if the endeavor fails, we don't want those monstrous towers out there forever," said Planning Commission Chairman Arthur Ortiz, who did not vote.

Senior planner Edward Vigil recommended denying the variances and permit because of conflicts with the county's land-use regulations and the company's failure to fully answer staff questions, according to people at the meeting. Vigil did not respond to calls for comment.

Opponents of the wind farm packed the room. "About 95 percent of the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Proposed turbines west of Taos draw criticism from neighbors

In a heated meeting that lasted until 11 p.m. Tuesday, the Taos County Planning Commission approved variances for a proposed wind farm, contrary to the county planning staff's recommendation.

The commission voted 5-2 to grant Taos attorney and Centinel Bank founder Eliu Romero height and landscape variances and a major land-development permit for a 27-turbine wind farm west of Taos.

But the commissioners added 31 conditions to their approval, including a 500-foot minimum between a turbine and the closest property line, consultation with the state Department of Game and Fish and a decommissioning plan. "That's very important because if the endeavor fails, we don't want those monstrous towers out there forever," said Planning Commission Chairman Arthur Ortiz, who did not vote.

Senior planner Edward Vigil recommended denying the variances and permit because of conflicts with the county's land-use regulations and the company's failure to fully answer staff questions, according to people at the meeting. Vigil did not respond to calls for comment.

Opponents of the wind farm packed the room. "About 95 percent of the people there were against the wind farm," said Ortiz. Some were from the Cielito Lindo subdivision, a group of 18 solar-powered homes that will border the proposed wind farm.

David Carpenter, president of the Cielito Lindo subdivision, said he believes the Planning Commission violated county land-use regulations in approving the wind farm. "An industrial anything is not appropriate out here," Carpenter said.

Tuesday's meeting was the third Planning Commission hearing on the wind farm. The application still needs approval from the Taos County Commission.

Romero and his Taos Wind Power partner, Bill Lockwood, are leasing three square miles of land from Romero's sons on which to place the wind farm off N.M. 64 between Taos and Tres Piedras. They originally applied to the Planning Commission for two different wind farms, but withdrew an application for one and reduced the number of turbines on the other.

County code limits structure heights to 27 feet, but the variance granted by the Planning Commission will allow the wind towers and turbine blades to top out at 425 feet.

Lockwood said the wind farm will provide 169 jobs during construction and 27 "direct and indirect" jobs during operation. He said the local power cooperative Kit Carson Electric is interested in buying some of the power. "I want everything to be local all the way down the line," said Lockwood, a former stock market trader.

Lockwood said the county stands to gain $15,000 a year per turbine from property taxes alone.

Residents from the Cielito Lindo subdivision worry about the proximity of the wind turbines to their homes, the impacts on migrating birds like sandhill cranes that fly through the area and strobe lights on top the turbines impacting the dark night sky.

Ortiz said the conflict between those strobe lights and the county's dark skies ordinance was one of several questions he and staff did not think the developers answered.

Ortiz said the big lesson for Taos County out of the debate is the need for a specific wind ordinance. He said staff is working on a draft one as part of a land-use plan revision. No state agency regulates wind farms. Regulation is by counties.

Contact Staci Matlock at 470-9843 or smatlock@sfnewmexican.com.


Source: http://www.santafenewmexica...

DEC 10 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/18230-panel-oks-variances-for-wind-farm
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