Upset by county plans to challenge state approval for a wind farm, an advocate for the alternative energy has filed petitions to recall the three county commissioners.
Desmond Knudson of Ellensburg, a land-use consultant, submitted separate petitions for each commissioner Wednesday to Kittitas County Auditor Jerry Pettit.
The petitions allege commissioners committed misconduct and violated their oaths of office by pursuing the appeal and adopting regulations that now have been deemed to violate the state Growth Management Act.
The filing sets into motion procedures that could take months and may never reach county residents for a vote to remove the three commissioners from office.
A ballot title must be prepared and a Superior Court judge must certify the allegations before a signature-gathering campaign can begin.
If the recall petition is certified, Pettit said, supporters would have six months to gather enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot.
One commissioner said Thursday the charges are groundless, and a Republican Party official criticized the petitions as hijacking the political process since two commissioners, David Bowen and Chairman Alan Crankovich, are up for re-election next year.
Knudson said the Kittitas County commissioners’ efforts to overturn state approval for the Horizon Wind Energy farm, northwest of Ellensburg, is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
“They are spending taxpayer dollars the taxpayers don’t want spent. They want to raise our sales tax to pay for services but are willing to spend millions on a lawsuit,” he said during an interview.
He said revenue from the wind farm could fund public services in Kittitas County and reduce the tax burden on property owners, and that the commission’s opposition to the project reflects a minority of Kittitas County residents at the expense of the majority.
The wind farm has been a controversial subject in the county. Commissioners initially denied an application to erect the wind turbines because of their proximity to rural homes.
Horizon appealed to the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which twice approved the project.
Gov. Chris Gregoire ultimately approved the project, prompting the county appeal.
Aside from the wind farm project, Knudson accuses commissioners of violating their oaths of office by adopting development regulations that are now being challenged as a violation of the state Growth Management Act.
A state land-use appeals board has concluded county approval of three-acre lot sizes in rural developments improperly makes those areas more urban in character.
The county is appealing the board’s conclusion in Superior Court.
Bowen, in a voice mail message to the Herald-Republic, said the recall petitions by Knudson are without merit.
“This is an avenue that is available to citizens if they have concerns over leadership,” Bowen said. “I believe there is no merit to the petition and leave it to a judge to decide.”
Mat Manweller, chairman of the county Republican Party, criticized the petition challenging county commissioners, of which two – Crankovich and Commissioner Mark McClain – are Republicans. Bowen is a Democrat.
“If you disagree with the policy, we have an electoral process. Two of these men are up for election in 2008,” Manweller said. “This will mean spending thousands of dollars on an election that would shorten their terms by a handful of months.”
By David Lester
12 October 2007
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