Kittitas County commissioners may change the county’s wind farm ordinance next year after county staff examines standards that have been common to wind farm projects proposed so far in the county.
Commissioners last week, during their update of the county comprehensive plan, agreed to have the county Community Development Services Department do the review and bring recommendations to the county commissioners.
“One can look at the projects and find the similarities that the county has required in the way of setbacks from turbines and buffers and other mitigations,” said Commission Chairman David Bowen. “The idea is to consider putting those detailed requirements and criteria in the code.”
The suggestions also would have to go to the county Planning Commission which, in turn, would vote on a formal recommendation to the county commissioners who make a final decision.
The commissioners considered the change last week as part of a suggestion from the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission recommended that the county research exactly where in the county wind farms and their tall, power-generating turbine towers are more compatible.
Such geographical areas, after identification, could be approved as a wind farm resource zone in which wind-power development companies could look for specific sites. This would mean some areas of the county would be off limits for wind farms.
The Planning Commission’s suggestion came from a comprehensive plan change recommended by Steve Lathrop, an Ellensburg attorney.
In 2005, Lathrop called for a comprehensive plan change that designated only remote areas on the east end of the county as sites for future wind farms. That change was not approved by county commissioners.
Bowen said much more discussion is required by commissioners and others before the county considers designating a specific area for wind farm development. Much research also is needed, including looking at what other counties are doing.
“Before we go down that path there will be a lot of discussion and study required,” Bowen said.
The county’s current ordinance allows a wind farm developer to seek approval to use nearly any location in the rural areas of the county but also requires major changes in zoning and the comprehensive plan to gain final approval.
By Mike Johnston
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