A public meeting has been scheduled by the Bingham County Commissioners for 9 a.m. on May 27 in Courtroom 1 of the County Courthouse to hear two appeals filed by a group of area residents trying to stop a wind power project in the Wolverine area.
County Commission Chairman Wayne Brower said no testimony from the public will be taken at the meeting, but the commissioners may ask questions.
The group is appealing an April 23 decision of the Bingham County Planning and Zoning Commission granting a special use permit to Ridgeline Energy, LLC for the Goshen South Wind Power Project that would put 150 wind turbines and appurtenant structures in a 20-mile corridor of the Blackfoot Mountains that encompasses 20,212 acres.
The notice of appeal was filed Monday by Natural Guardian Limited Partnership of Idaho Falls and Blair Grover of Beard St. Clair Gaffney law firm as designated agent for Lavar Grover and Stan Hawkins of Idaho Falls and 19 other people, including Rulon Jones of Firth who runs a captive elk hunting operation in the Cedar Creek area.
Appeal is based on several grounds that include:
• Power production is an industrial use and not permitted in the Natural Resources/Agriculture Zone.
• The application was not filed by either the owner or the occupant of the property as required by the zoning ordinance.
• Wind is not a natural resource as defined in the zoning ordinance.
• The application does not contain a site plan drawing as required by the county planing handbook.
• The project will not produce any property tax as claimed in the application because the applicants lobbied the state Legislature to change the means of taxation from property to a tax of 3 percent of gross wind energy earnings, dropping the tax revenue for Bingham County from an existing wind power project from $271,831.30 in 2006 to $75,831.30 in 2007.
n Notice of the public hearing was defective because it inaccurately lists the acreage involved.
n The project will not produce any property tax as claimed in the application.
n The hearing procedures used by the Planning and Zoning Commission violate due process of law because testimony of individuals was limited to three minutes and the amount of written testimony they could submit was limited to two pages. The appellants say that was not sufficient time for them to adequately present their evidence.
n The decision was in excess of the statutory authority granted to the P&Z Commission.
n The decision does not comply with Idaho’s Local Land Use Planning Act, the county’s comprehensive plan, or its zoning ordinance.
Natural Guardian Limited Partnership said also, two members of the P&Z Commission were absent from the first part of the hearing on March 26 and therefore should hot have participated in the decision making portion.
NGLP said the P&Z board required as a condition of the SUP a committee to oversee the project, but failed to adequately set forth its scope of authority, how it would be formed, criteria to be used by it in making decisions, and procedures to ensure that the decisions are implemented correctly.
Grover said P&Z Chairman Merril Blake raised several of the grounds stated in the appeal, but didn’t vote. Since the SUP was approved by a 4-3 vote, he said, if Blake had voted consistent with statements he made during the discussion the result would have been a 4-4 tie and the permit would have been denied for lack of a majority.
8 May 2008
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