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Looming windfarm industry prompts May hearing

With plans for windfarms in northern Lincoln County percolating, a public hearing will be scheduled during the May meeting of the Lincoln County Commission on a proposed ordinance to regulate the towers. Commissioners reviewed the draft last month, but took no action.

With plans for windfarms in northern Lincoln County percolating, a public hearing will be scheduled during the May meeting of the Lincoln County Commission on a proposed ordinance to regulate the towers.

Commissioners reviewed the draft last month, but took no action. They said they would allow two months for County Attorney Alan Morel, County Manager Tom Stewart and Mel Patterson of the Center for Municipal Solutions smooth out a few wrinkles in the wording and circulate the draft for comment.

But overall, Morel did a good job of checking the ordinance and not much was left to do, said Commissioner Dave Parks.

"It's incredibly comprehensive," Morel said. A wording change tied to an application fee versus a permit needed to be clarified, but the other modifications are minor, Morel said. "You tell me which ones (should be inserted) and it will be ready next month," he said.

"Since this is so extensive, perhaps we should go with two months to ensure adequate comment before a public hearing," Stewart suggested.

The manager noted that several provisions mirror the cell tower ordinance adopted by the county and managed by the CFMS and Patterson, who also put together the proposed wind tower... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

With plans for windfarms in northern Lincoln County percolating, a public hearing will be scheduled during the May meeting of the Lincoln County Commission on a proposed ordinance to regulate the towers.

Commissioners reviewed the draft last month, but took no action. They said they would allow two months for County Attorney Alan Morel, County Manager Tom Stewart and Mel Patterson of the Center for Municipal Solutions smooth out a few wrinkles in the wording and circulate the draft for comment.

But overall, Morel did a good job of checking the ordinance and not much was left to do, said Commissioner Dave Parks.

"It's incredibly comprehensive," Morel said. A wording change tied to an application fee versus a permit needed to be clarified, but the other modifications are minor, Morel said. "You tell me which ones (should be inserted) and it will be ready next month," he said.

"Since this is so extensive, perhaps we should go with two months to ensure adequate comment before a public hearing," Stewart suggested.

The manager noted that several provisions mirror the cell tower ordinance adopted by the county and managed by the CFMS and Patterson, who also put together the proposed wind tower ordinance.

Stewart pointed out that an escrow account must be established for applicants for the specific purpose of funding the county consultant, similar to the cell tower ordinance provision.

The fee is based on the complexity of a project and any excess money is to
be refund, once the project is completed.

But application fees are a one-time charge for the purpose are covering the costs of engineering review, hearings, the approval process and paperwork over the life of a project. That money is not refunded.

The required distance for ground clearance for different towers is tied to the length of blades, he said. "The longer blades build up more static electricity (and the greater distance is required) to avoid accidental discharge to passersby," he said.

Parks asked how the value and resulting property tax charge is computed." Is it based on the construction cost approached?" he queried.

County Assessor Paul Baca said a cost approach can be used. "We've asked the state Property Tax Department to assist us," he told commissioners. "We need to look closely. Some counties lost revenue because they haven't done their homework."

The soil and water conservation districts and school districts should receive compensation and one county forget the soil districts, he said.

Stewart said that type of guidance is one of the reasons the commission hired a consultant, especially if at some point industrial revenue bonds are considered for a project.

"We can draw on the experience of other counties in drafting this ordinance," Commission Chair-man Tom Battin said. "I was wondering about noise restrictions. This sets to a certain decibel level. Where does that come from and are we obliged to enforce that?"

Commissioner Eileen Sedillo asked what type of noise is emitted and Stewart said the blades make a sound that is louder as they go faster.

Stewart said the ordinance states that on an initial applications, an applicant "shall demonstrate proposed project complies with" various requirements, including noise.

"They must certify to us this thing will not be harmful. There are some things applicants have to do, just as the cell towers applicant must. We struck the reference to a county engineer. If I need to hire an engineer to check it, that will be part of escrow fee."

"We have an obligation to protect the health and safety of citizens, and protect against any unnecessary environmental impact," Battin said.

"But at same time, I don't want to be so restrictive, it discourages proper development."

"I wanted to get this to you in time for them to study it before the public hearing," Stewart said. "I haven't had a single complaint from the cell tower ordinance. They're paying $8,500 per tower. In this one, we're requiring $10,000 for wind farms."

Nogal resident Bob Moeller suggested commissioners consider the County Planning Commission conduct a process similar to a subdivision application, "because these are developments like any other. As time goes on, there will be more and more and there will be impacts on people. I read about areas where wind farms came in and complaints resulted on the noise level interfering with sleep along with the flicker of light (from the blade movement)."

"It's an advisory committee and could then recommend to you, similar to what happens with subdivisions, instead of having to deal with all of it here."

Moeller continued, "We don't have any land use policies in the county and this increasingly could become a problem as these developments take place."

Some companies may come here to put in manufacturing, he said, adding, "I suggest the Planning Commission begin a dialogue on land use policies so you are ahead of the curve."


Source: http://www.ruidosonews.com/...

APR 15 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/25760-looming-windfarm-industry-prompts-may-hearing
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