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City begins to take up wind farm policy  

Councilman Vernon Woods said he did not believe it was proper for Apex to be involved in the ordinance process.

“I would like to state that Apex’s obvious interest in contributing to the crafting of any Piedmont ordinance is not warranted and is highly improper,” Woods said in an email to Dougherty. “In addition, it will definitely contribute to the already present public perception that the planning commission and the city council will be unduly influenced by your wishes and suggestions.”

Opinions on the wind farm project from the public and city officials appears to be mixed and Apex is in the process of trying to sell the project as a benefit for the community. This month the company said the wind farm could bring a maintenance facility to Piedmont with as many as 15 employees. Apex also said its wind turbines would mean a boost in tax revenue for area school districts, including $479,000 annually for the Piedmont school district, according to Apex estimates.

Credit:  Written by Ben Felder, Editor | The Piedmont Citizen | www.piedmontdaily.com 26 September 2012 ~~

After a lot of talk about a proposed wind farm project in the area, the city of Piedmont is beginning to officially take up policy discussions as it starts to craft an ordinance.

A public hearing is scheduled next month on a proposed commercial windmill ordinance but officials from an energy company proposing a wind farm project in the area say the ordinance draft is not ideal.

“There were a couple things that we brought to their attention that might make the project more difficult to build with the ordinance (as it is presented),” said Kent Dougherty, a development manager for Apex Wind Energy. “(This) ordinance would make it very difficult for us.”

The Virginia-based wind energy company has proposed a $500 million wind farm project in Kingfisher and Canadian counties with a portion of the farm located in Piedmont. The planning commission requested that the city attorney create a proposed commercial wind energy ordinance addressing the placement of wind turbines and a public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for Oct. 1.

The proposed ordinance states that some wind turbines are restricted to 45 feet in height, well short of the nearly 200-foot-tall turbines Apex would build. The ordinance mentions wind energy conversion systems, which are turbines taller than 80 feet, but there appears to be a lack of specifics concerning the placement of larger turbines.

Dougherty said his company provided the city with several suggestions on how to tweak the proposed ordinance to better fit its needs, such as being more specific when it comes to siting and operational standards.

“We suggested that the city contemplate putting objective, measurable standards in place that both a wind developer and the city could more effectively plan around,” Dougherty said in an email to the Piedmont Citizen. “We’re just asking for more specific guidance.”

The company hopes to break ground on the wind farm by next April, Dougherty said.

Wade Harden, the city’s new community development director, said he is working with the city attorney on drafting a wind ordinance and his primary concern is the health and safety aspect.

“I have been doing a lot of research,” said Harden, who has not worked in a city before with wind turbines as large as those proposed by Apex. “There’s going to be more communities dealing with this, especially in Oklahoma.”

Councilman Vernon Woods said he did not believe it was proper for Apex to be involved in the ordinance process.

“I would like to state that Apex’s obvious interest in contributing to the crafting of any Piedmont ordinance is not warranted and is highly improper,” Woods said in an email to Dougherty. “In addition, it will definitely contribute to the already present public perception that the planning commission and the city council will be unduly influenced by your wishes and suggestions.”

Opinions on the wind farm project from the public and city officials appears to be mixed and Apex is in the process of trying to sell the project as a benefit for the community. This month the company said the wind farm could bring a maintenance facility to Piedmont with as many as 15 employees. Apex also said its wind turbines would mean a boost in tax revenue for area school districts, including $479,000 annually for the Piedmont school district, according to Apex estimates.

However, the school district with the biggest benefit would be Okarche, which would see an annual revenue of $1.6 million. Cashion schools would see $709,000 annually.

Piedmont superintendent James White said the projected revenue would have a major impact on the district, which has an annual budget of around $16 million.

“Anytime, especially the way the state has cut our budgets, you see any additional revenue it is welcomed,” White said. “We have seen the projections from (Apex) and it would have a positive impact on the district.”

White said the tax revenue would be welcomed by the district, but so would the potential for higher valuations as a result of the wind turbines.

“As a growing district that is always facing construction issues, property valuation and how it impacts our bonding capacity is always a huge concern,” White said. “Our (valuations) just have not been growing for whatever reason.

Canadian County has been growing so fast, but our valuations have not kept pace.

“The addition of a wind farm could really boost that.”

Beyond citing examples of an economic impact on the community, Apex also hosted an open house last week in an effort to talk directly with members of the public about any concerns there might be about the proposed wind farm. As many as 10 Apex officials were present at the open house to answer questions and several posters were also displayed showing stats about wind energy and the Kingfisher Wind Farm project.
Dougherty said he thought last week’s open house went well and that Apex officials were able to field many questions.

“Overall, we feel there is a lot of support for the project,” Dougherty said. “Part of the our job is education and explaining the project. I think a lot of folks were most interested in asking why here why now?”

Maps of the proposed wind farm were also on display at the open house but councilman Woods has also raised concerns with the maps released by Apex earlier this month and said they were confusing the public. Apex has released multiple maps with somewhat different boundaries on each, but Dougherty said the maps were preliminary and subject to change. In an email to Woods and the Piedmont city council, Dougherty said the lack of finality in the maps is because Apex released the maps earlier than most developers do in an effort to be transparent to the community.

“We offered the maps early on in an effort to be open and forthcoming with information – I can promise you that very few wind companies (or developers of any kind!) would share this preliminary information,” Dougherty said in an email. “These were really only for illustrative purposes, giving everyone some indication of where we were active.”

Despite some questions from Woods and other statements of disapproval of the project by some Piedmont residents, Dougherty said he felt there is a lot of support for the project and Apex was working well with the city. Apex gave several city officials a tour of a nearby wind farm under construction to offer a closer look at what a wind farm might be like in Piedmont.

“Just the fact that we are engaged with an interested council is fantastic,” Dougherty said. “I think the stuff with (Woods)…you just have to state factual material and continue to do your best to educate the city and public on the (wind farm).

“We feel like this is right where we want to be.”

Source:  Written by Ben Felder, Editor | The Piedmont Citizen | www.piedmontdaily.com 26 September 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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