An ordinance addressing wind energy development in Navajo County received approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission last Thursday night in a 6-1 vote.
The proposed ordinance, as well as wind farm development plans, drew a great deal of attention from both residents and developers. County staff members noted that the ordinance was developed both to address concerns from residents and give clear guidelines to companies wishing to locate wind farms in the county.
Among the issues addressed in the new rules are setbacks, noise, wildlife, decommissioning and re-vegetation following construction.
Noise also received its own set of guidelines, which were also approved by the commission. Under the guidelines, developers must complete an extensive pre-construction sound modeling study. The study must include a sound contour map for each turbine and address different frequencies of sound.
Also included in the noise guidelines are requirements that the study explain what variables may affect the sound measurements, and how different weather conditions, such as the humidity of monsoon storms, will affect the sound measurements.
While county staff hoped that the ordinance would strike a balance between the rights of homeowners in the area and the rights of commercial landowners to utilize their property, both groups continued to express concerns about wind development in Navajo County.
Jan Johnson of Iberdrola noted that setbacks in the ordinance are nearly double those of most counties across the country. She also expressed concern that some areas of the ordinance were not entirely clear, and could be left open to interpretation. Johnson said that Iberdrola wants to be a good neighbor and work with the county to follow the ordinances, but needs to know that the guidelines are clear.
Residents noted that although the ordinance addresses some concerns, wind farms still “invade” wide open spaces and ruin views. Many also continued to point out that they believe the turbines can cause health problems for individuals living near wind farms, and that property values will decline.
Approval of the ordinance by the planning and zoning commission puts the issue before the Board of Supervisors, who make the final decision. They were expected to vote on the matter at their regular meeting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 26.
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