BLACKFOOT – The Bingham County Planning and Zoning Commission denied a special use permit on Wednesday that would have allowed Blue Ribbon Energy to install 27 wind turbines near the Goshen townsite.
The commission voted five to one to deny the request based on a lack of pertinent information and the development’s close proximity to homes.
“This (would be) the closest wind farm to residences in the county” said Commissioner Brutch Merrill.
Many of the commissioners were concerned about Blue Ribbon Energy’s failure to provide detailed maps that showed the locations of the wind turbines and homes, access roads and supplemental buildings along with other pertinent information.
“I am not personally against windmills, but personally I don’t feel like there is enough information in the application or the information we received to feel comfortable (approving this),” said Commissioner Ann Christensen.
Although Blue Ribbon Energy officials said they understand that the county has not had a lot of experience with wind developments, which are relatively new to the area, they were frustrated by the commission’s decision.
“I recognize they are doing their best to understand the issues and deal with them, but on the other hand it would be helpful to applicants to know in advance what they want,” said Arron Jepson, an owner of Blue Ribbon Energy.
Officials say they have done their best to address both the county’s and citizens’ concerns in the last few months.
“We’ve done everything we were asked to and exceeded it by quite a stretch,” said M.J. Humphries, another owner of Blue Ribbon Energy.
The company had originally planned to install 50 wind turbines in the area between 1050 E. and 1250 E. and 400 N. and 800 N; however, they reduced the number to 27 to address community concerns about some of the wind turbines that were too close to homes and to meet the county’s tentative wind turbine development requirements.
Bingham does not currently have regulations specific to wind turbine developments, which is one of the reasons why officials have been working on an updated zoning ordinance, now in it’s 14th draft.
Although the updated ordinance has not been adopted, Blue Ribbon Energy wanted to make sure it was in compliance if the regulations became law, Humphries said.
“Those were the guidelines we went by even if we didn’t agree with them,” he said. “(Draft 14) is very harsh towards wind developers.”
Although the commission said they appreciated Blue Ribbon Energy’s efforts, they still did not feel comfortable approving the special use permit without a better understanding of its impact to the county and those living in the area.
Blue Ribbon Energy officials have 10 days to appeal the decision to county commissioners; officials had not decided whether they would take that step on Wednesday.
The commission was also scheduled to discuss Kay Walstrom’s request for a zone change from agriculture to residential/agriculture at 3 W. River Road, and Clem Yancey’s preliminary subdivision plat for 16 lots at 140 N. 365 W.; however, they had not made any decisions at press time.
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