The Monroe County Planning and Zoning Department granted Summit Ridge Energy LLC a conditional use permit (CUP) to build wind towers and accessory buildings in the town of Ridgeville Tuesday. Richard Yarrington was the only member to vote against the permit on grounds of insufficient information in the placement of structures. A permit for the town of Wells was also on the agenda for discussion, but was tabled to the next meeting set for 9 a.m. April 30 at the County Annex Meeting Room.
“We need more specific locations of tower sites,” said department member Richard Yarrington. “We should be able to address placement on an individual tower basis.”
Planning and zoning members pieced together the conditional use permit modeled from the Dodge County Montfort wind farm permit after nearly four hours of deliberation. Summit Ridge Energy LLC was present and often addressed questions and arguments. It maintained that exact placement of structures is impossible to forecast until towers are set up and then shifted according to wind patterns. Attorney Glenn Stoddard, representing Focus on Monroe County’s Future, objected to arguments made by Summit Ridge in their favor.
“The applicant was able to testify repeatedly in their favor though the public hearing had already taken place,” said Stoddard. “They (planning and zoning) didn’t discuss the public testimony whatsoever.”
The conditional use permit addressed setbacks, which are boundaries near houses, public structures and roads, that were set at 1,000 ft. Department member Cedric Schnitzler tried to increase setbacks to 1,200 ft. Richard Yarrington also attempted to increase them to 1,500 ft. for non-participating residences and public structures, but both motions failed.
Bonding for future removal of the towers was set at $40,000 in the format of an irrevocable standby letter of credit. The value was amended from $30,000 to accommodate possible price increases in future decades. Other monetary conditions included reimbursement for medical and safety training for local authorities that may have contact with the wind towers. Members also wrote in a condition that a third party can record road conditions before and after tower installations so that Summit Ridge Energy can be charged according to damages. Ground blasting guidelines for site construction were also included.
The Planning and Zoning Department discussed its visit to the Montfort wind farm at the onset of the meeting, before discussing the conditional use permit. It met with residents living near wind towers as well as Dodgeville officials.
“We parked right between the wind towers – windows down, engine off, and couldn’t hear a thing,” said Yarrington. “Everyone seemed very happy with the towers. We were surprised to find no opposition.”
All visiting members were pleased with the trip and unanimous positive reactions from the community. Local residents said they felt the towers helped maintain agricultural land from being overtaken by housing developments. Businesses used the towers as tourist attractions and featured them on restaurant place mats. One woman living very close to a wind turbine said she especially enjoyed the view and wasn’t bothered by noise. Officials said the largest problem they’ve had with the towers is traffic slowing down to view them more closely.
By Keith Zukas
26 April 2007
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