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Wind farm seeks preliminary approval this week

PRESCOTT – A company with plans to build a massive wind-turbine power plant goes before the Yavapai County Planning and Zoning Commission Wednesday, hoping to have 5,000 acres of residential land rezoned to allow the facility.

Yavapai Wind, LLC, wants to build a 130-megawatt power plant on land about 3 miles west of Williamson Valley Road and 1.6 miles east of Anvil Rock Road. The land, 15 miles southwest of Seligman, is known as the Yavapai Ranch.

Yavapai Wind is owned by NextEra Energy Resources of Juno Beach, Fla.

The plant would consist of 81 turbines, each about 450 feet tall, a 30 megawatt solar power plant, associated buildings, power lines, meteorological towers and 35 miles of new private roads.

Yavapai Wind anticipates at least four years before the plant would be complete, but some operations could begin in 2012.

The company says it will employ 200-300 local workers during the construction of the plant, which would last two years. Once complete, it will take 7 to 10 people to operate the plant.

NextEra claims it will pay $3.8 million in property taxes and $19 million in salaries and other labor payments over the first 25 years of the project.

Thus far, according to Planning and Zoning staff, reaction among the neighbors has been mostly positive. One open house, in Seligman, resulted in seven comment cards being submitted; of those, six were in favor of the plant. The staff has also received a petition with 70 signatures in favor of the project.

Comments collected by the company at the Seligman open house included phrases like, “We are looking forward …to more taxes paid in our county,” “Give ’em an ‘A’,” and “Good job, guys, you get my support.”

One negative comment expressed concern about “reduced access to land” and potential negative impact to “one of the most prized areas for hunting elk and antelope in Northern Arizona.”

Arizona Reps. Andy Tobin (R-LD1) and Karen Fann (R-LD1) as well as Senator Steve Pierce (R-LD1) submitted a letter endorsing the project.

Planning & Zoning staff has also seen two letters in opposition.

The nearest home is about a mile from the site.

The permitting process is just getting under way. In addition to the zoning change, Yavapai Wind will also need approval from the Arizona Corporation Commission, an environmental study, permission from the FAA for the towers and lighting, and more public participation meetings before the project gets the final green light.

The land Yavapai Wind wants to use is currently zoned Rural Residential (RCU-2A). The company is asking for a Minor General Plan Amendment and a Use Permit.

The Yavapai Planning and Zoning Commission meets Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. in the Supervisors’ meeting room, 1015 Fair Street in Prescott.