ELKO – An Elko couple whose plan to install a wind turbine on their property along Sundance Drive is offering disgruntled neighbors the chance to pay them not to put up the tower.
“Neighbors can pay for the wind rights,” Travis Gerber, attorney for Scott and Sheri Baker, said at the Elko County Commissioners meeting, after commissioners voted to ask the Elko County Planning Commission to look again at the wind ordinance.
“The Bakers have to eat $6,000” in a nonrefundable payment if they don’t install the turbine, Gerber said, but he added that neighbors could offer the Bakers money in lieu of the wind turbine. “That option is open.”
Installation of the wind turbine would entitle the Bakers to a $26,000 payment from NV Energy toward the $30,000 cost for the project, and the Bakers in turn would sell the power to NV Energy.
“Power would go back to the grid. It would reduce reliance on other energy sources,” Gerber said at the Thursday meeting.
The Bakers received approval from the commissioners in August to install a 66-foot-tall turbine on their two-acre lot after a three-hour hearing, but they later dropped the application, then filed a new one yet to be acted upon.
One of the neighbors, Kevin Sur, was on the agenda to urge commissioners to change the ordinance to limit the placement of wind turbines to sites of 10 acres or more, and he initially talked more generically about the proposal, not naming the Bakers.
“We’re asking for review,” he said, citing issues with a wind turbine in a neighborhood of homes, including the “strobe factor” at night from light reflection on the blades, the noise, the view and potential property devaluation.
He said the threat to property values is like a taking of property.
Attorney Katie McConnell, who represents a group of neighbors, said the county’s wind ordinance is inconsistent.
She said one page states that there is a minimal lot size of 10 acres, including if there is a combination of a smaller, private turbine and a larger one. Another page puts the minimum at one acre for one type of turbine or the other, without the combination.
The one-acre section also eliminates open spaces as one of the zoned areas where a wind turbine can be located.
“You are depriving anyone with less than 10 acres to wind power,” said Commissioner Warren Russell.
“My feeling is we should send this back to the planning commission to relook at it and come back with a recommendation,” Commissioner Jeff Williams said, suggesting a five-acre requirement rather than 10 acres.
Kristin McQueary, Elko County’s chief civil deputy district attorney, said the county’s ordinance on wind power is the first in the state, and the commission put nine months of effort into it.
The new application the Bakers filed falls under the current ordinance, she also told commissioners.
McQueary chided Commissioner Charlie Myers after he asked “why would the Bakers want to alienate their neighbors” by installing the wind turbine. She said he shouldn’t show bias if the new application comes back to commissioners for a hearing again.
Fourteen neighbors signed a petition against the wind turbine after planning commissioners approved the project last June.
Myers made the motion to send the ordinance issue back to the planning panel to specifically look at parcel sizes.
The motion passed 3-1, with Russell voting against it and Commissioner Glen Guttry absent.
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