Requests for two special use permits – one for a wind farm, the other for a shooting range – are making their way through Torrance County government.
One application is for a proposed wind farm in southeast Torrance County, the other for a shooting range near Mountainair.
The wind farm proposal was submitted by Iberdola Renewables, and, according to Planning and Zoning Coordinator Steve Guetschow, the company is proposing a wind farm consisting of roughly 146 wind turbines.
The El Cabo Wind Project would be between Encino and Duran.
Guetschow said the proposal will be heard at a Planning and Zoning meeting scheduled Tuesday.
“It’s a public meeting, so people can come and air their opinions,” Guetschow said. “But so far, I’m not aware of any objections.”
He added that a wind farm, such as the one proposed by Iberdola, would result in new jobs for the county. Guetschow said Iberdola is hoping to start construction in May 2012 and would need to hire 190 local people to get the job done.
“And there’d be between five and 10 permanent maintenance positions after that,” he said.
Iberdola Renewables is headquartered in Colorado and working with a California-based company, Pacific Wind LLC Development, on the project. But Guetschow said there’s a reason they’ve chosen to take their operation here.
“Our area frequently rates from good to excellent for wind generators,” he said. “The mountains create a funnel and channel the wind.”
If the special use district is approved, “I think it’ll be a good thing for the county,” Guetschow said.
The shooting range proposal, however, may find it difficult to find support among its possible neighbors.
Manzano Mountain Gun Club President Jim Green said the group has been working since September to establish a gun range near Mountainair.
He said landowner Clarence Pohl is leasing a 40-acre parcel of land on his ranch near the Abo Ruins to the gun club for the range. But neighbors are concerned about noise. The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that the County Commission deny the special use permit for the tract at its Nov. 2 meeting. The County Commission could take up the issue this month.
“Safety-wise, it’s a great location,” Guetschow said. “The noise, though.”
While Green agreed that neighbors were primarily worried about the noise, he said some were concerned about safety issues, as well, but they didn’t have to be. According to Green, safety is a top priority for people on both sides of the issue.
“We thought it would be better if we had a safe place to shoot,” said Green.
He said some people were probably already using local land to shoot, and the range would make sure such activities took place in a supervised environment that conformed to NRA safety standards.
“If you make one mistake, you lose everything you’ve worked for. So our goal is not to make any mistakes,” Green said.
He also said the gun club has plans to shield community members from the noise.
“We’ll put baffling equipment up to baffle the noise,” he said.
But the special use district has to get approved, first. And Green knows that’s an uphill battle.
“Our next step is to go before the County Commission,” he said. “We’ll plead our case, and we’ll either get it or we won’t. If we don’t, we’ll apply for an alternative site.”
Guetschow said he was aware of the gun club’s intentions to apply for an alternative site. Both he and Green said the alternative location would still be on Pohl’s property, but would cover a different area of the ranch.
If the special use permit does pass, Green said there will be plenty of people anxious to use the range. He said the Manzano Mountain Gun Club has about 50 members, but more people have expressed interest in using the range. And Green still sees the range as a positive thing, despite the objections that have been raised.
“It’s a safety thing,” he said. “We want to protect our women and children.”
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