People who want a 360-square-mile expansion of a proposed east-county wind farm zone made their point Monday that the zone will only be effective if it is expanded along the east-west high-voltage power-line corridor across the county.
Their comments came during a hearing examining recommended changes in the county’s development code, which includes zoning designations and related rules. Some are opposed to expanding the county-proposed wind farm zone saying it takes in rural residential homes and future home sites.
County commissioners earlier proposed establishing a 500-square-mile zone on the county’s east end, along the Columbia River, that would be pre-identified as an area compatible for wind farm development.
Wind-energy development firms, seeking wind farms in the new zone, would have fewer land-use requirements to meet, although would have to do environmental studies and gain a permit after hearings before county commissioners.
The new zone would not replace an existing wind farm ordinance that has more requirements but allows wind farm firms to attempt to site a wind farm in nearly any location in the county.
Desmond Knudson, local businessman and wind-energy proponent, gave county commissioners 20 letters from county residents who support expanding the proposed zone with a 30-mile long, 12-mile wide east-west corridor extending from the east county zone to a point near Cle Elum. It takes in 360 square miles and high voltage power lines.
Knudson, after the hearing, said he gave county commissioners in May 85 letters of support to expand the zone. He said the expansion area takes in power lines that are crucially needed by wind farm companies for line connections and includes more local government taxing districts – including school and fire districts – that would benefit from wind farm development.
Speaking in favor of the expanded zone was Catherine Clerf of Moe Road. Clerf, after the hearing, said she told commissioners if they want to adopt the zone they definitely need to add the corridor. She said most of the land in the zone as it is now proposed is owned by the federal government and can’t be considered for wind farm development.
She also said documented wind resources are less in the existing, proposed zone, compared to other areas of the county. Clerf, in addition, said the county’s existing wind farm ordinance isn’t legally defensible because it only addresses wind-power development and not other energy-producing projects. She said the proposed, pre-identified wind farm zone is a “legally legless ruse” to give the appearance of supporting the development of wind-power in the county, but actually proposes an area that is not good for such development.
Clerf said four others spoke in favor of the expanded zone during the hearing.
Linda Schantz, a spokesman for Residents Opposed to Kittitas Turbines, said she is following the zone-expansion issue. She said the citizen advocacy group is opposed to the expanded zone because it takes in rural residential areas and sites for future homes. She said ROKT members are opposed to wind farms going in near residential areas because of the potential to reduce property values, negatively affect health, pose safety risks and destroy scenic views.
She said the group supports the proposed east end zone as it now stands because it is located away from concentrated, rural residential areas.
“This is an important quality of life issue for everyone in the county,” Schantz said
By Mike Johnston
14 June 2007
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