The proposal, from lawyer Steve Lathrop, would restrict wind farms to the south and east ends of Kittitas County and place other requirements on locations of wind farm towers.
Commissioners Perry Huston, David Bowen and Alan Crankovich said they didn’t see a compelling reason to change the county’s wind farm ordinance, though Huston said he wants to explore placing specific wind farm siting criteria in the county’s ordinance.
“Our current process works, it’s not broken,” Huston said after the hearing.
Bowen said he was concerned Lathrop’s proposal, if adopted, would weaken the county’s position in defending its decisions to reject a wind farm if the same project came before the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.
He said the present wind farm ordinance creates a strong public record of decisions by the county Planning Commission and county commissioners.
Crankovich said Lathrop’s proposal does have merit, but it would be “very, very difficult” to change the county’s wind farm site review and permitting process in midstream.
He said an application for a wind farm is presently under review by the county, referring to Horizon Wind Energy’s revised application for a 64-turbine project 13 miles northwest of Ellensburg.
In past months, commissioners approved the Wild Horse wind farm centered 17 miles east of Ellensburg. Wild Horse, now under construction, was developed by Horizon Wind Energy and later purchased by Puget Sound Energy.
Commissioners in April rejected the Desert Claim wind farm proposed by EnXco USA Inc. for 8 miles north of Ellensburg. EnXco failed in it is court appeal of the decision and has declared it will seek approval of the project from the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.
Huston said supporters of Lathrop’s proposal contend it would protect western parts of the county from wind farm development and that wasn’t an accurate conclusion. He said wind farm developers could apply to change the comprehensive plan to allow a project in an area other than the proposed east county zone.
“I’m not prepared to abandon our present process, though it is tedious and time consuming,” Huston said.
Lathrop, after the hearing, said his proposal, as a change in the county comprehensive plan, calls for public hearings, environmental impact statements and decisions by the Planning Commission and the county commissioners.
He said his proposal just limits where wind-power developers can apply for wind farms. He said it gives the public, local government, landowners and wind-power developers clear direction, whereas the county’s current ordinance is unclear.
“My proposal in no way undermines local government control or authority,” Lathrop said. “It actually gives county government a more solid basis for why local decisions on wind farms should be upheld. It enhances the county’s credibility.”
Lathrop said he has no intention to give up on the issues he has raised because the problem of siting wind farms will not go away.
“How and where they are located is much too important to the county and directly affects our long-range future of the county.”