Controversy continues over the possibility of wind turbines being erected in western Mason County.
On Wednesday night, concerned citizens attended the regular monthly meeting of the Mason County Joint Planning Commission.
In attendance was businessman Bill Shugars, with his wife and mother, and a second man, identified as Bruce Bellingham, according to Zoning Administrator Matt Wallingford.
Although the subject of the proposed wind turbines was not on the official agenda for the meeting, comments are allowed on any subject during the public comment portion of the meeting.
It was during the public comment that the subject of the turbines was brought up, with concerns once again expressed about the setback requirements for utility facilities and the question of public hearings, or lack of, being held to inform the public of the project, said Wallingford Friday from his office.
NextEra Energy Resources, a Florida-based company, began conducting studies last year to determine if wind turbines could be feasible in Mason and Bracken counties.
During a June meeting of the Mason County Fiscal Court, Adam Rickel, project manager for NextEra was in attendance, as was several residents, represented by Shugars.
At that meeting, before Rickel addressed the audience, accompanied by Maysville-Mason County Industrial Authority Director Gene Weaver, Shugars spoke to county commissioners about his concern that all necessary information on the impact of wind turbines be reviewed before the project went further.
Judge-Executive James L. “Buddy” Gallenstein and commissioners Pat McKay IV, Annette Walters and Phil Day listened to Shugars’ request that an amendment to local zoning ordinances may be necessary to provide for appropriate “setback” distance from adjoining properties. The setback distance mentioned throughout the meeting was a beginning distance of 1,400 feet, with Rickel saying that distance is a general design, but could be adjusted.
However, a setback distance of two miles was suggested by Shugars. The two mile setback was mentioned by Shugars again during Wednesday’s meeting, said Wallingford.
Also during the June meeting, Shugars questioned meetings held by NextEra with landowners and government officials. Shugars said he feels all the meetings should be open to the public, a suggestion Commissioner Annette Walters supported. McKay said he wants to hear from company officials on both the positive and negative issues related to the such a project, before making a decision to amend the land use text.
Wallingford said during Wednesday’s meeting of the Joint Planning Commission, a motion was made by board member Tim Teegarden, seconded by Jean Everett, to submit a letter to Mason Fiscal Court and Gallenstein on the subject of changing the setback ordinance.
In the body of the letter sent to Gallenstein dated July 8, Wallingford states, “The Mason County Joint Planning Commission, during their regular meeting held July 6, 2011, has requested the Mason County Fiscal Court determine if the Land Use Ordinance should be changed in regards to setbacks for utility facilities. If the Court determines that a public hearing needs to be conducted, please advise me on the matter and I will get the process started…”
Wallingford said the Joint Planning Commission can take no statutory action on the Land Use Ordinance issue, without the Fiscal Court’s authorization to do so.
Currently, setback distances on land zoned agriculture is 50 feet from the side of a structure to the property line and 50 feet from the rear of a structure to the property line.
Bellingham, who lives on Clarks Run Road, said Friday his concern is that the wind turbine industry is not regulated, not only on the county level, but the state level.
He said he has called the Kentucky Public Service Commission and while the subject of wind turbines is being reviewed by state officials, there are no regulations in place at this time.
Gallenstein said Friday representatives of NextEra are expected to attend Tuesday’s meeting of Mason Fiscal Court. The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m., Tuesday, July 12 at the Judge Executive’s office on Stanely Reed Court Street.
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