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County agrees to postpone wind farm ordinance

After receiving criticism about some of the proposed regulations for a Lincoln County ordinance to govern wind farms, commissioners decided to postpone action and allow a citizens committee and the county attorney to take a stab at narrowing down disagreements.

After receiving criticism about some of the proposed regulations for a Lincoln County ordinance to govern wind farms, commissioners decided to postpone action and allow a citizens committee and the county attorney to take a stab at narrowing down disagreements.

Mack Bell from Corona told county commissioners last week that written comments previously were submitted and he appreciated the opportunity to express opposition to ordinance.

"We feel it is so restrictive, especially to us in the Corona area, it just is not appropriate for us," Bell said. "The (wind farm) developers we worked with for three years said if the ordinance is passed (as written), they won't go through with wind farms in our area. They would move to (neighboring) Torrance County where there is no ordinance.

"I would ask you not to adopt the ordinance at this time and to form a work group to rewrite the ordinance to end up with a good responsible ordinance for the county and one that addresses the concerns you all have. I think an ordinance is a good thing, but we would like some input and there is not a rush on this. The developers tell us 2013 will be the earliest date any construction can start."

Commissioner Dave Parks... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

After receiving criticism about some of the proposed regulations for a Lincoln County ordinance to govern wind farms, commissioners decided to postpone action and allow a citizens committee and the county attorney to take a stab at narrowing down disagreements.

Mack Bell from Corona told county commissioners last week that written comments previously were submitted and he appreciated the opportunity to express opposition to ordinance.

"We feel it is so restrictive, especially to us in the Corona area, it just is not appropriate for us," Bell said. "The (wind farm) developers we worked with for three years said if the ordinance is passed (as written), they won't go through with wind farms in our area. They would move to (neighboring) Torrance County where there is no ordinance.

"I would ask you not to adopt the ordinance at this time and to form a work group to rewrite the ordinance to end up with a good responsible ordinance for the county and one that addresses the concerns you all have. I think an ordinance is a good thing, but we would like some input and there is not a rush on this. The developers tell us 2013 will be the earliest date any construction can start."

Commissioner Dave Parks said a little hurry is warranted. "The faster we get ordinance on the books for the county, the more it will relieve the minds of the companies that want to come in, because we sure want them down here," he said.

"The amount of research and the understanding you folks up there have, I think we should send our expert, who got this ordinance off the rack, up to you," Parks said, adding he considers the ranchers who have been active in the issue to constitute the committee.

Bell agreed. "They want to know rules they will have to jump through and the earlier the better," he said. "Everyone is waiting for the (Sun Zia) transmission line to be approved and tie into it at the Corona area. We will take the lead on this, if that's what you want, and work with someone from the county."

Acting Commission Chairman Eileen Sedillo suggested the ranchers meet with Mel Patterson from the Center for Municipal Solutions, the consultant handling the ordinance and who oversees county cell phone tower applications.

Bell said First Wind and Shell Wind Energy submitted comments and their representatives should be included, because of their technical backgrounds in the field. The company officials in the audience agreed to attend and a spokesman from White Sands Missile Range asked to keep that entity informed when development is occurring and sites are to be selected for towers.

"Most won't be a problem, but some may be and we will need a chance to mitigate," the representative said..

County Attorney Alan Morel then stepped into the conversation and said the situation is a lot easier than it might appear.

Of the comments submitted, Patterson indicated he was in agreement with from 75 percent to 80 percent, the attorney said. Patterson responded to each comment and Morel said 80 percent of the suggestions could be adopted in the ordinance.

"I'd like to go through and make changes and narrow it down to the few issues remaining and go after them," he said. "I don't think it would take another three months. I could get it back out in seven days and then concentrate on the issues left."

He will have the revised ordinance drafted for commissioners to consider at their June 22 meeting, pointing out any issues still unresolved, Morel said.

Carrizozo resident and former county commissioner Stirling Spencer asked commissioners, "not to lose track of the key component, the Sun Zia transmission line. I think the whole thing goes away if the line doesn't come in or becomes uneconomical. I have no gain (in the success of the project) other than I'm a county citizen. I recommend hound-dogging that thing."

County Manager Tom Stewart said he is advised that the Sun Zia project is moving forward and said he was asked not to write a lot of congressmen now. "So we are giving them some time," he said.

Nogal resident Bob Moeller suggested commissioners use the situation as an opportunity to look at the best approach to all types of development.

"They all pose land use issues," he said. While wind towers may be compatible with prevailing land uses in northern Lincoln County, there are other areas in the county where they would not be compatible, he said.

"Our ordinance says they should be compatible with land uses, but we have not defined our land uses in the county," Moeller said. Sooner or later, as development progresses in the county, people will want to put in shopping centers and liquid waste dumps that have impacts on quality of life and on health, he added.

"We need to start with a dialogue on what type of land use they want in the county," he said. "Right now, if (an applicant) complies with the subdivision ordinance, you have no basis for denying. We need an organized way of looking at where development is appropriate and where is it not.

"The attractiveness of the county visually is a big issue in other areas of the county," Moeller said. "The scenic beauty is an economic asset. You have to look at preserving that while balancing it with economic impacts. We need a proactive comprehensive plan to deal with the issues, the factors that drive growth and development. The economy is in a slump now, but that will be over in time."


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

JUN 2 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/26579-county-agrees-to-postpone-wind-farm-ordinance
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