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Regulating wind power: how much control can county exert?  

Members of the Potter County Planning Commission (PCPC) will sit down Tuesday to continue work on an ordinance to control wind turbines throughout the county.

A large turnout is expected for the 6 p.m. meeting, to be held in the planning agency’s offices at Maple View.

Energy companies have targeted Dutch Hill, Crandall Hill and other Potter County locations as potential sites for the massive wind turbines, which are more than 400 feet high and cost several million dollars each.

One of the firms, international energy giant AES Corporation, has unveiled a plan to build upwards of 80 turbines on high-altitude farmland in Ulysses and Hector townships.

PCPC members are drafting regulations as an amendment to the county’s Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance. Restrictions could control the location, height and other aspects of the industrial wind turbines, including setbacks from adjacent properties. The final decision rests with the Potter County Commissioners.

However, in the absence of countywide zoning regulations, there are limits to how far PCPC can go, according to Charlotte Dietrich, interim planning director.

“I think there are misconceptions about what the county can, and cannot, regulate without a zoning ordinance,” Dietrich explained. “Issues such as noise and color and other aspects can only be controlled through zoning.”

Solicitor D. Bruce Cahilly has given PCPC similar advice, Dietrich said.

A citizens’ group, Save God’s Country, has submitted proposed regulations for PCPC review. The group says the turbines proposed by AES could generate noise pollution, cause damage to underground water supplies, create shadow flicker, reduce property values, and endanger public health and safety.

AES’s Bob White says the the regulations proposed by Save God’s Country are too restrictive and would make the industrial wind plant financially unfeasible.

No formal applications have been filed by AES, but the company has begun leasing property. The wind turbines would require approval from state environmental agencies and township supervisors. White said AES expects to begin the application process in 2008.

PCPC members, in addition to Shirk, are Rance Baxter, Marshall Hamilton, John Nordquist, Bill Dean, Mitch DeLong and Bill Hunter.

Endeavor News

6 October 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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