Wind turbines can be as close as a half mile from a home under San Miguel County’s new law on wind farms.
Dismaying many in the audience of more than 50 people, the commission on Monday rejected a three-mile setback for turbines that a county task force had proposed.
That was the biggest issue in the task force’s proposed wind ordinance.
Commissioner Nicolas Leger proposed cutting the setback to a half mile between wind farms and homes, churches, businesses and schools. The commission quickly approved his proposal, without any discussion.
“Shame, shame,” several in the audience shouted.
“Keep your comments down,” County Manager Les Montoya warned.
Shortly after, Leger proposed changing the task force’s proposal for variances from the ordinance’s requirements. The task force allowed such a procedure for everything in the ordinance, except for the setback.
Leger, however, wanted setbacks to be subject to waivers approved by the commission.
Some in the audience protested that such a change would effectively eliminate the setback.
Commission Chairman David Salazar agreed, and the commission, including Leger, decided to keep the provision for the waivers as is.
Another big issue was the noise created by turbines. The commissioners struck several provisions dealing with the decibel levels. They replaced them with a requirement to get an independent expert to examine noise issues for each project.
Some in the audience didn’t like that, with one person saying, “If you eliminate that, you don’t protect anyone. You’ll keep people sleepless.”
In early 2009, the county formed the task force to develop new rules for wind turbines after Chicago-based Invenergy expressed interest in a 50-turbine wind farm on the Bernal Mesa in the Valley area.
Representatives of the company have attended most of the county hearings dealing with wind turbines. They were at Monday’s meeting as well. A few times, when wind-farm opponents piped in with comments, Invenergy officials responded that public comment was over.
Invenergy had recommended a setback from homes of 1,500 feet, a little more than a quarter mile. The company said the three-mile setback would have shut out wind development from the county.
After the meeting, Mark Jacobson, business development director for Invenergy, said his company would reflect on the changes before commenting.
“I won’t make any blanket statements about whether it (ordinance) is workable,” he said.
Esteban Muldavin, who has a home in Ribera, loudly ripped up a large sign that he had posted on the commission’s chambers back wall, reading, “Give us three miles. Protect Our Families and Property.”
“They (county) didn’t do a true independent economic analysis,” he said as he was walking out.
He said the wind turbines would badly affect the Valley’s scenic beauty, which he said helps the area’s economy. He said retirees add much to the economy and may not come to the Valley if the Invenergy project happens.
“No one will want to live under the wind farm,” he said.
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