An effort to “keep Bondurant rural” has risen in the form of a petition against the wind turbines to be built soon behind the post office and Branding Iron Café on the River Bend Ranch (Ordway) property, at the valley’s southeast end.
The four proposed turbines are part of an experimental power distribution system by Lower Valley Energy (LVE) that will include a solar array about 20 by 40 feet in size, storage batteries to store 10 kilowatts’ worth of power generated by local wind and sunshine, 10-by-20 foot building and a pilot for water control in which residents are given $15 a month if they allow LVE to monitor their water meters during “peak time,” which runs from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m.
All these are efforts part of the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project (“smart grid”) and look to see if there is an effective way to defer rebuilding power lines and to improve power reliability from Bondurant to Kendall Valley, according to Rick Knori, LVE director of engineering.
The petition asks to support “ no variance” against the proposed wind turbines.
“The proposed ‘windmills’ will not be small and quaint – there will be FOUR WIND TURBINES ATLEAST 45 feet tall plus a building and fence to secure the power plant,” reads the declaration for the petition, led by Bondurant resident Keith Scharff.
The request for a petition was attached to a letter sent to property owners within 1,000 feet of the Ordway property from Sublette County Planning Director Bart Meyers, soliciting comments from “neighbors in the vicinity of this request.”
This was one of the motivating factors that caused Scharff to create the petition.
“The fact that they only sent it (the letter) to people within 1,000 feet was a big thing, when they knew that would only be six or eight people, including the people with businesses who already knew,” he said. “This is going to affect everybody, so that’s why we did this, so at least people are aware.”
While LVE originally considered a total height of 44 feet (38-foot poles and six-foot blades), they are now looking at a “new innovative windmill,” according to Knori, which will come to 25 feet tall, the county’s height restriction for the Highway Commercial Zoning District on which the turbines will be erected, and are 10 feet shorter than the 35-foot power poles along the highway in front of the post office, Knori said.
Meyers said he thinks there is some misunderstanding regarding the proposed turbines.
“These are not the types of wind turbines you would see along I-80; rather they are similar to the wind turbine at the Enercrest/Cimarex building south of Big Piney,” he said.
In 1997, the Sublette County Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) approved the height variance for the 67.5-foot wind turbines to be constructed in the Light Industrial zoning district. Meyers said he was not aware of any height variances issued for wind turbines or any other structures in the Highway Commercial Zoning District, calling the 25-foot maximum “one of the most restrictive height limitations for any zoning district in the county.”
Meyers also said that there is an older disabled wind turbine similar to what LED has proposed across the highway from the Bondurant Post Office.
“That turbine has been there as long as I can recall with no comments or concerns being expressed regarding it distracting from the rural nature of the area,” he said, adding that the property on which that turbine is located is in the Agricultural zoning district where the maximum height is 60 feet, and where there is no need for variance or a public hearing. Knori said there were no plans to move the installation across the road if this River Bend location becomes too much of a difficulty.
Even at the newly proposed 25-foot height, Scharff said he would “just as soon not see them at all,” and that he fears for the wildlife in the area, especially the geese and ducks that use the flyways in the basin, and for the health of the Branding Iron Café.
“We have ducks that don’t even fly south; they stay here on Muddy Crick all year long and fly back and forth across the post office, so when Game and Fish made absolutely no comment we needed to say something,” he said adding, “… I’d hate to see how this effects the restaurant if this happens. They have enough trouble with business and four wind turbines could really take away the charm that Bondurant has.”
This “smart grid experiment” could be dismantled if it does not prove to be useful in improving power delivery, but if it works properly it could be expanded upon in the Kendall Valley area rather than LVE rebuilding the entire transmission power line from the Hoback Junction.
Comments were to be received no later than Aug. 22 to be viewed by the P&Z Commission in Meyer’s staff report prior to its Sept. 1 meeting. However, Meyers said all comments will be considered and those sent after the deadline will be provided to P&Z by email prior to the meeting and in a hard copy on the evening of the meeting.
Concerned citizens should attend the public meetings on Sept. 1 at 6:30 p.m., as well as the Sublette County Board of County Commissioners’ public meeting on the following Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 1 p.m.
Knori said he respects the feelings of the community and their desire to keep Bondurant scenic and “rural.”
“Hopefully they’ll (citizens will) talk to us, we do want to talk to them and do the least impact if we can, “ he said.
For the complete article see the 08-30-2011 issue.
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