County sought balance between wind development and concerns of residents
Without much discussion after months of revisions, Lincoln County commissioners approved an amended ordinance governing placement and construction of wind systems.
The action came last week during a continuation of a public hearing first scheduled two months earlier.
County Attorney Alan Morel said he, County Manager Nita Taylor and attorney Lynn E. Mostoller with the Albuquerque firm of Sutin, Thayer & Browne have gone over every line of the ordinance to ensure an integrated review, and included representatives of Pattern Development, one of the firms active in the county.
“I think today we have an ordinance all (are comfortable with) approving,” Morel said, adding that some changes were substantial, other very minor.
Mostoller took over from there by conference call.
“Early on it was communicated to me that the 2011 ordinance need updating and the feeling the county wanted to take a balance approach to these types of projects, to develop an amended ordinance that allowed for rational development of wind energy conversion systems and one that addressed health and safety concerns of resident of the county,” she said.
Some of the revisions noted by Mostoller were that the ordinance makes it clear when a permit is needed and created a distinction between major and minor construction activities. Definitions of terms were expanded and used more consistently throughout the ordinance to remove ambiguities. Major and minor construction activities were defined listing “the kinds of things the developer would engage in to qualify for the production tax credits, which are winding down at the moment and there is a rush to do what minimally is required to preserve them.”
The county must be engaged for either major or minor activities, but the preliminary process for minor construction is not as comprehensive as for major, she said.
Under mitigation measures, many changes clarified items already in the ordinance. Specifically, the use of public roads was covered to ensure that a wind developer would be responsible to any damage that might be incurred from movement of heavy equipment or hauling of material.
Setbacks were increased by number of feet from a public right of way, as well a a formula for height of a turbine.
Provisions were clarified covering decommissioning at sites to ensure sufficient bonding is in place, she said.
“Once (a site) ceases operation, (the ordinance previously did not provide for transfer of a permit,” Mostoller said. “We added a section in the event a facility sold that provides for a method. There would have to be a showing that the entity purchasing had the requisite financial and technical expertise to own and manage one of the facilities. The county would have to approve a transfer before it went through.”
A cost reimbursement was added for money spent by the county associated with the permitting process, she said. A provision allows a developer not in compliance to cure an issue prior to the application of penalties fines and fees.