County commissioners hear wind farm debate, discuss creating P&Z board
Credit: Ben Felder, Editor | The Piedmont Citizen | December 17, 2012 | www.piedmontdaily.com ~~
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EL RENO – Like dozens of others in attendance for Monday’s Canadian County commissioners meeting, Piedmont resident Bill Duncan wore a sticker resembling a no-smoking sign, but instead of a crossed out cigarette, there was a picture of a wind turbine.
“I just want to support the effort [against wind turbines] because I don’t want it in our area at all,” Duncan said. “It’s terrible.”
Duncan’s perspective aligned with many in the standing-room only crowd at Monday’s meeting, but there were plenty in attendance that welcomed a proposed wind farm project.
Over an hour of public comments showed just how divided citizens are on the issue of wind turbines, and after months of that debate taking place in Piedmont, it has finally reached the county level.
Members of the public debated whether a wind farm project west of Piedmont would be good for the county, but the item on the county commissioners’ agenda that brought the crowd was a proposal to create a planning and zoning board for unincorporated parts of Canadian County that could regulate developments, such as a wind farm. After hearing public comments, the commissioners voted to move forward on calling an election that could create the board.
Opponents of a plan to build 120 wind turbines between Okarche and Piedmont say a planning and zoning board could help limit the construction of wind turbines that they say would hurt property values and pose various health and safety risks. Those in favor of the wind turbines – or those against the idea of a planning and zoning board – say it would hurt the rights of property owners and create another form of government control.
“I wanted to be able to do with my property what I want to do with it,” county resident Maurice Woods said during Monday’s meeting. “Now you are attempting to tell me what to do with property that is my own.”
Woods, who said he is an attorney, argued that the creation of a planning and zoning board could create problems down the road with the government having more control over a property owner’s rights. Woods also said he has signed an agreement with the Virginia-based company looking to build the wind turbines.
Opponents of the wind farm said they sympathized with property owners looking to make money off of leases with Apex Wind Energy, but argued the community should be considered before allowing the construction of wind turbines in parts of Canadian County.
“I’m guessing that a lot of people move out here for the peace and quiet,” Piedmont resident Pam Suttles said. “Not to hear the sound of a roaring jet engine.”
Following public comments, the commissioners voted to move forward on holding an election that could create a planning and zoning board. Commissioner Phil Carson said he was ready to vote for an election date, but commissioners Jack Stewart and David Anderson said there needed to be more details worked out before crafting a ballot.
“Even as a conservative commissioner, I would want to go to the citizens and see what the citizens would want to do,” Stewart said. “The best way to do that is with a vote.”
The commissioners also agreed to hold a public hearing on Jan. 5 to hear from more residents on the idea of creating a planning and zoning board. A time and location for the hearing was not announced.
What you need to know
Weren’t wind turbines already denied in Piedmont?
Yes. The Piedmont planning commission voted down a proposed commercial wind turbine ordinance that basically halted a proposal to build turbines inside Piedmont city limits. However, the proposed wind farm calls for the construction of 120 wind turbines in an area of Canadian County between Piedmont and Okarche, north of the Expressway.
Were Piedmont representatives in attendance for Monday’s meeting?
Yes. The same grassroots group that spoke out against wind turbines at last month’s planning commission meeting was in attendance at Monday’s county commission meeting. Mayor Valerie Thomerson and planning commissioner Eric Berger both spoke out against wind turbines in Canadian County and many members of the Piedmont community, including the editor of the Piedmont-Surrey Gazette, wore anti-wind turbine stickers.
What would the creation of a planning and zoning board mean?
A Canadian County planning and zoning board would not impact cities like Piedmont that have their own planning commission. It would impact those properties in unincorporated parts of Canadian County, like the area between Piedmont and Okarche where a wind farm has been proposed.
What is the next step?
A public hearing will be held on Jan. 5 to further discuss the creation of a planning and zoning board, but all three county commissioners indicated Monday they are in favor or taking the issue to the voters of Canadian County. Creation of a planning and zoning board would require voter approval.
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