Kittitas County commissioners have affirmed that planned turbine locations in a proposed wind farm should be moved to comply with the required setback distance from two residences that exist near the project east of Ellensburg.
Commissioners Mark McClain and Alan Crankovich met Tuesday and reviewed with county staff a draft development agreement between the county and Chicago-based Invenergy Wind North America LLC.
The company is proposing to construct and operate the 69-turbine Vantage Wind Power Project 15 miles east of Ellensburg between Vantage Highway and Interstate 90.
After reviewing the proposed agreement page by page and suggesting changes, commissioners agreed to meet again at 2 p.m. May 6 to examine a final, updated copy of the document. Commissioners may take final action at that time to approve the estimated $300 million project located about seven miles west of Vantage.
The project is within the county’s wind energy overlay zone, an about 500-square-mile area on the east end of the county that has been pre-identified as generally compatible with wind farm developments.
Darryl Piercy, director of the county Community Development Services office, said discussions with Invenergy officials indicated recognition that there were fourstructures located within the half-mile setbacks from proposed turbine sites: two residences, the state Department of Transportation Ryegrass rest stop and a small weigh-scale building at the county’s Ryegrass construction debris landfill.
Piercy said Invenergy has agreed to move two, proposed turbine locations to comply with the county’s half-mile setback requirements in connection with the residences.
Piercy said the other two structures, which are not residences, are at distances that reflect the minimum safety setback of nearly 600 feet.
Although state officials did not comment on the setback of turbines from the rest area, commissioners called on staff and Invenergy to do an analysis of the potential impacts from shadow flicker and noise on the rest area and the weigh station.
This study will be used to determine if the half-mile setback from the non-residential structures should require further moving of turbine locations.
McClain said the county’s ordinance involving the half-mile setback uses the word “structure” and doesn’t further specify what kind of structure. Until the ordinance is changed, all structures fall within compliance requirements, he said.
Crankovich said the rest area can be considered to be occupied all the time and the weigh-station only during working hours.
Commissioners noted that the weigh station wasn’t initially addressed in the setbacks because the county agreed to not deal with county lands to steer clear of any appearance of fairness conflicts. Invenergy is looking at the option of leasing land from the county for the placement of turbines in the project.
Commissioners said the lease proposal is not being reviewed by the county until the Invenergy development agreement is settled. County departments involved in a possible lease have been directed to not contact or communicate with county commissioners whatsoever on any lease proposal.
The Community Development Services Department also has been directed to not take part in any aspect involving a possible lease.
In response to a public comment about the lack of a third commissioner, representing District 1, to assist in finalizing the Invenergy agreement, McClain said the company is entitled by law to have a timely decision made on its application.
He also said each commissioner, by law, represents all areas of the county and can decide on the project.
By Mike Johnston
16 April 2008
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