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Planning commission recommends denial of wind overlay expansion

The Kittitas County Planning Commission took about 10 minutes – including time spent discussing how to accommodate an overflow audience – to unanimously pass a resolution Tuesday recommending the denial of a change to the county’s wind power overlay zone requested by Columbia Plateau Energy Facility LLC.

The proposal would create a 5,760-acre westward expansion of the existing wind power overlay zone in east Kittitas County.

The Planning Commission’s resolution will forward the proposal to the Kittitas County Board of Commissioners with a recommendation that it not be approved.

“In a nutshell, I don’t think we need this comprehensive plan change right now … There are no new circumstances that warrant comprehensive plan change,” said Planning Commissioner Kim Green.

Green said she felt adding to the overlay zone would be “overkill,” stating she thinks “the value of wind, as of today for the Kittitas Valley, has been overstated.”

“I’m ready to vote,” Planning Commission member Rob Fraser said after hearing Green’s comments. “I’ve been reading non-stop, talking to people non-stop since we last met.”

Consultant and state Rep. Bill Hinkle of Cle Elum, who has been representing Columbia Plateau, has said Columbia Plateau plans to cut more than three sections of land from the proposal’s north end and southwest corner totaling approximately 1,920 acres. He could not be reached for comment following the Tuesday night Planning Commission meeting.

“That’s been taken out because of the concerns we heard at the (Sept. 13) hearing and our contact with property owners in the area,” Hinkle said previously. “We’ve carefully listened to concerns and did something about it.”

Green said the plan changes to the map would not affect her stance against it.

“That (change) is not that big. I don’t know what the purpose was behind that. I won’t even speculate,” Green said. “It doesn’t matter.”

Opposition

A citizen and landowner advocacy group called Kittitas Residents Opposing Windfarm Sprawl formed earlier this month to voice objections to the Columbia Plateau project.

“We obviously are very pleased that the Planning Commission has listened to the people of the county and they’re sticking to their code and rejecting this application,” said group member and neighboring property owner Harland Radomske.

Radomske said his group will continue to oppose any wind development outside of the current overlay zone.

“It doesn’t matter how they draw it up,” Radomske said.

Project supporters have stressed the proposal is a general land-use designation change and doesn’t involve a specific wind farm project at this time, although a site-specific wind power development may come before the county at a later date in a separate public review process.