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Commissioners discuss wind energy regulation

Wind energy producers could have more hoops to jump through if a draft regulation on wind energy in Goshen County is passed. At their monthly meeting on Tuesday, the Goshen County commissioners discussed regulating wind energy activities in the county. Goshen County Planner Mel Eaton and Goshen County Planning Commission Chair Mary Beth Downer provided each commissioner with a draft of a regulation on wind energy in Goshen County. Downer said that the bulk of the information in the draft was the "best" ideas from existing regulations in Platte and Albany counties.

Wind energy producers could have more hoops to jump through if a draft regulation on wind energy in Goshen County is passed.

At their monthly meeting on Tuesday, the Goshen County commissioners discussed regulating wind energy activities in the county. Goshen County Planner Mel Eaton and Goshen County Planning Commission Chair Mary Beth Downer provided each commissioner with a draft of a regulation on wind energy in Goshen County. Downer said that the bulk of the information in the draft was the "best" ideas from existing regulations in Platte and Albany counties.

"We want to develop wind power to its fullest capacity but protect those things that need to be protected," Downer said.

Eaton said a key concern is that county roads stay in as good a condition as they were before wind generator construction and use. He said Platte County has impact fees.

"These fees can not be punitive," Eaton said. "They can only cover legitimate costs incurred by the county."

According to Eaton, the county receives two or three calls per week from people interested in putting in wind generators. He said there has to be a "clear zone" of spacing between each wind generator... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Wind energy producers could have more hoops to jump through if a draft regulation on wind energy in Goshen County is passed.

At their monthly meeting on Tuesday, the Goshen County commissioners discussed regulating wind energy activities in the county. Goshen County Planner Mel Eaton and Goshen County Planning Commission Chair Mary Beth Downer provided each commissioner with a draft of a regulation on wind energy in Goshen County. Downer said that the bulk of the information in the draft was the "best" ideas from existing regulations in Platte and Albany counties.

"We want to develop wind power to its fullest capacity but protect those things that need to be protected," Downer said.

Eaton said a key concern is that county roads stay in as good a condition as they were before wind generator construction and use. He said Platte County has impact fees.

"These fees can not be punitive," Eaton said. "They can only cover legitimate costs incurred by the county."

According to Eaton, the county receives two or three calls per week from people interested in putting in wind generators. He said there has to be a "clear zone" of spacing between each wind generator and existing buildings to prevent a domino effect if one generator should fall. Anyone constructing a wind generator must also mitigate "window flicker." Window flicker is a light strobe effect caused by the generator rotor movement at certain times of the day. Planting trees can help mitigate this effect.

Downer said the county is on unfamiliar ground with wind energy and asked for careful review of the draft regulation by the commissioners. She said the draft regulation would cover generators with a 100-kilowatt capacity or more versus some regulations that had limits of 25-kilowatt capacity and above. Commissioner Jim Hudelson said generators with capacity less than 25 kilowatts are generally used for personal purposes. He said 600 kilowatts and above would be expected from a wind farm.

Eaton said the issues most important to the county are where the wind farms are located and who they affect.

"The county's job is to project the safety of the county," Eaton said.

He said some wind farms will "undoubtedly" span several counties, which would require changes to the wind energy regulation, but the draft would be a good place to start because it can always be amended.

Commissioner Ross Newman said he was concerned about the effect building wind farms would have on county roads. Hudelson said a decommissioning plan should be in place to cover this concern.

"The tax credit for wind generators is used up in 10 years," Hudelson said. "As part of the permitting process we may need bonding for any new owners of wind generators. The new owner would be responsible for decommissioning cost."

Eaton said the decommissioning bonds should be adequate to pay to "clean up the mess."

Hudelson said that at a meeting he attended in Yoder on wind energy, five people volunteered to work on an advisory board to form a wind energy association.

Newman asked if there should be a public hearing for processing wind energy requests. He also asked if the planning commission should be involved in the approval process - similar to their role in approval of subdivisions.

Commissioner Board Chairman Robert Ward said that the planning commission should be involved while the first few requests are processed to see if they need to be involved. He said a lawyer might also be needed. Newman said the county could be facing projects that involve hundreds of millions of dollars.

The commissioners decided not to have a public hearing during the planning commission's review of a project request, but will hold one shortly after the commissioners start their review process. Hudelson said two permits should be required - one to do the project and one to actually construct. Newman asked the planning commission to get a copy of the wind energy regulation from Laramie County, which has a large wind farm in place.

After the commissioners discussed wind energy they heard from Evan Puckett, who appeared before the commissioners to discuss his experience with the county treasurer and county assessor. He said he is a 29-year resident of Goshen County and has paid taxes and licensed a number of vehicles through the treasurer's office. On July 9, 2008, he came to the county treasurer's office to license a trailer. At that time he checked on taxes for a property he bought on July 20, 2007. He found that the treasurer's office did not have the property in his name and that taxes on the property were overdue, requiring payment of a fine.

Puckett said he was unsure why the property had not been put into his name. He went to his real estate agent, who contacted the title company. They discovered that no formal documentation had been given to the Goshen County treasurer to change the ownership of the property. The Goshen County Assessor's Office had changed the ownership to Puckett on Sept. 10, 2007. The assessor's office sends a tax roll to the treasurer's office once each year in August; however, the treasurer's office did not know the property had changed hands.

County Assessor Debbi Surratt explained that the tax year runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, and Wyoming Statutes state that she is required to send notice to the owner of the property as of Jan. 1 of that tax year. Puckett did not own the property on Jan. 1, 2007, so he therefore would not be sent notice until the following year. The notice was sent to the previous owner who apparently disregarded the tax notice and did not let the treasurer know it had been sold. Surratt certifies the taxroll to the treasurer in August each year. If there are changes in ownership during this timeframe, the assessor and treasurer depend on the taxpayers or their agents to notify the county.

"Normally the buyer, the seller, an agent or a bank will send us notification that a property has changed hands, and the new owner would like to receive all the paperwork," Surratt said. "Then the file is annotated with an ‘in care of.' The person who is in care of the property will get the tax notice. According to state law, the owner of record as of Jan. 1 of each year is the person who pays the property taxes. My office and the treasurer's office work closely together. "

Puckett decided to pay his real estate taxes and fine in an unusual manner.

"I went to my bank and had them give me the money in coin," Puckett said. "I presented the two bags of coins to the treasurer's office as legal tender for the taxes."

According to Puckett, Goshen County Treasurer Sharon Knaub refused to take the bags of coin for payment of the real estate taxes and fine. Puckett asked to see her supervisor. Knaub called the Goshen County Sheriff's Office and a deputy sheriff came to Knaub's office. Puckett was escorted to an open foyer in the Court house, and Goshen County Attorney Patrick Korell was summoned to talk to Puckett. According to Korell, he offered to go with Puckett to his bank and change the coin into paper currency to pay the taxes.

At the commissioner's meeting Tuesday, Puckett said he was concerned that in 11 1/2 months his property had not been put into his name in the treasurer's office. Korell said that additional controls would be put into place to help alleviate this problem.

Puckett also said he had been treated as a "second-class citizen" but felt he had done nothing wrong." He cited the U.S. Coinage Act, which states that coins are legal tender. Korell said that legally, coins should be accepted in payment for taxes. However, he noted that each office has the right to establish procedures for receipt of coin payments. When it would take time to either count the coins or take them somewhere else to be counted, the office could impose a waiting period to allow for the processing of the coins.

Puckett asked whom the Goshen County treasurer answers to so that he could voice his concern about the treatment he had received. The commissioners and other elected officials present told him the treasurer is accountable to the voters who elected him or her. Korell told Puckett there were certain legal actions he could take if he felt strongly about the way he had been treated. Puckett said he could see that no action was going to be taken and left.

Knaub was not available for comment.


Source: http://www.torringtontelegr...

AUG 8 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/16397-commissioners-discuss-wind-energy-regulation
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