A moratorium blocking new permits for large wind energy systems is set to expire at the end of the month, but Whatcom County Council is scheduled to vote on an extension at its meeting Tuesday, Oct. 12.
The County Council originally voted 6-1 to approve the emergency moratorium in late February, after Squalicum Mountain property owners expressed concern over preliminary plans for a large commercial wind project nearby. The moratorium was extended another six months in a 4-3 vote in April.
Councilwoman Barbara Brenner proposed the extension, and she and councilman Ken Mann have drafted ordinances on wind power that would update the original 2008 wind energy systems ordinance. There are no applications for wind energy projects before the council that would be affected by a new ordinance.
The main differences between the two proposals are setbacks, size categories and zoning.
Brenner’s ordinance breaks projects up into large and small, with large projects allowed only in commercial forestry or industrial areas. For large projects, it calls for minimum setbacks of 2,500 feet from property lines in any zoning that allows residential development.
“This is so not a debate between whether you like wind power or not,” Brenner said. “It’s one of those things that we have all types of alternatives and options for wind power. I’m not opposed to big ones, I just think they should be located far away from people.”
Mann’s proposal creates four size categories, with large projects allowed to apply for permits in industrial, commercial forestry, rural forestry and agricultural zones. Minimum setbacks from property lines range from 1.2 times the tower height to four times tower height depending on tower size and zoning. His ordinance also calls for performance standards.
“In the big picture, I think it’s really important that Whatcom County have a viable alternative energy program,” Mann said. “And that we also make it clear to any kind of investor or entrepreneur that when there are rules on the books, we know those rules will stay consistent.”
Both ordinances will be reviewed by the Planning Commission and discussed in public hearings before going back to County Council for a vote.
IF YOU GO
Whatcom County Council will consider an extension of a wind turbine moratorium at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12, in council chambers, 311 Grand Ave.
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