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Umatilla County wind rules on the table for comment

Anyone waiting to chime in on Umatilla County’s June 2011 laws for siting wind turbines and the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals’ ruling remanding a portion of those new rules, will have their chance to speak at a public hearing at the end of the month.

The county board of commissioners will take public testimony, but only testimony having to do with the specific issues in the board of appeals remand, said Umatilla County Planning Director Tamra Mabbott.

“They won‟t take testimony on general stuff like „wind is good‟ or „wind is bad,‟” Mabbott said. “The county clearly adopted a policy in support of wind development.”

On Jan. 12 the board of appeals remanded four points back to the county. Now the county must adopt new wording to explain its reasons for the laws.

The first of those issues involves the process for waiving a two-mile setback between homes and wind turbines. Mabbott emphasized LUBA did not disagree with the two-mile setback. It disagreed with the process the county had proposed for a landowner or a city to waive that setback.

In a memo Mabbott and County Counsel Doug Olsen give four options to the commissioners.

The memo recommends the commissioners make no changes to the county‟s rules, but allows the current variance process to work for wind turbines as it does for any other land use case.

“We have a standard variance process that applies to any of our code provisions,” Mabbott said. “That would be the fallback position, if you will, if we didn’t have another process that would be
unique for siting wind turbines.”

Mabbott said her department also will give a proposal on how to address the need for an environmental, social, economic and energy analysis, which the board of appeals asked the county to complete at least in part.

The planning department also will report on how the county‟s comprehensive plan agrees with the new wind turbine siting rules.

While Mabbott was hopeful the commissioners could get through all the issues in one day, she said they could refer some issues that need more work back to the Umatilla County Planning Commission.