STERLING – Over the objection of area homeowners, the Logan County Commissioners voted to approve a resolution and application for amendment to Colorado Highlands Wind, LLC, for conditional use permit, at their meeting on Tuesday.
The conditional use permit is for design, construction, operation and maintenance of a state of the art wind power generating facility of approximately 90 megawatts on property currently zoned agricultural in portions of Township 9 North, Ranges 48 and 49, West of the 6th P.M., near Fleming.
Colorado Highlands is looking to complete their site near Fleming this year by adding 14 wind turbines. They installed 42 last year.
Homeowners who expressed concern at a Planning Commission meeting last month were at the meeting Tuesday to voice the same concerns. The Planning Commission voted to recommend the commissioners approve the request.
Jon Schweiger voiced frustration over the noise and shadow flickers he and his wife, Carol, are experiencing at their home as a result of turbines that are already there. He said the current setback rule of 1,000 feet between a residence and a turbine is too close. Instead, he asked for a 3,700-foot setback.
Commissioner Dave Donaldson asked where the 3,700 feet suggestion came from. Schweiger said it was a figure they came across when doing research.
Commissioner Rocky Samber asked how close the closest turbines are to their home. Schweiger estimated 1,200 to 1,500 feet.
He also expressed frustration at not being able to know exactly where the turbines will be placed.
“I think that, where a homeowners affected by these towers that don’t get any compensation from the lease or from the towers, that there ought to be some sort of notification of where they’re going to place those towers that might affect us,” he said.
Prior to this week’s meeting Schweiger and his wife had not seen any map showing location of the turbines. A preliminary map was shared with the Planning Commission at their meeting, but not with the Schweigers or any other homeowners at the meeting. At Tuesday’s meeting the map was shared with the commissioners and the Schweigers.
“You’ve got to understand where we are at this exact day-today point in time,” said Jim Michael, managing member for Colorado Highlands Wind. “The map that we have out there, we have to take a lot of things into consideration before we place them sturdy.”
Those things include county standards for setbacks, both for homeowners and county roads, and cultural surveys, which are ongoing right now.
“They are finding things out there and the state historic preservation office doesn’t want us to talk about that, because people will go out and look for what we find,” he said in regards to the surveys. “But if we find something, we have to move the turbine so we don’t disturb that.”
Also, test holes are being done and when problem soils are found turbines have to be moved.
“Until all that is done, we can’t finalize the layout and we don’t really want to give it to the community, because things are changing,” Michael said. “If we give them a map that changes, the wrong information is out there.”
He said they should have a finalized map in two week and would be happy to share that. Later on he shared a preliminary map with the commissioners and the Schweigers
While looking at the map, there was debate about whether the existing wind turbines are within a half mile from their home or 2,000 feet. The map did show a proposed turbine half a mile from the residence and another one farther away.
Michael said a 3,700-foot setback is not an option. He pointed out they heard the Schweigers’ request not to put turbines any closer to their home than the ones already there and they re-engineered the site and accommodated the request.
“We have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to accommodate your request, to bury the cable that it takes to connect those towers and roads that it takes to do that are a part of the economics of the project,” Michael told the couple. “We have incurred financial costs to accommodate your request.”
Carol Schwieger said 3,200 square-feet would be acceptable, but the 2,000 feet the company has the proposed turbines at, is not.
“It’s our property value that’s gone down and all due respect, you guys know the nuisance,” she said.
“We have a property and an investment to take care of too and if you keep concentrating these in this small area, when there’s ample land out there, I start having to question who are we accommodating?”
“I just want to be able to live comfortably out there.”
Jon questioned if the company could come back at any time and place even more turbines near them. Michael said that without extensive grid modifications the wind farm couldn’t be expanded any further after this phase is completed.
“We may be back for a different interconnection, a different transmission project, but that’s down the road and over the hill,” he said.
“I full well understand property rights, but I think that there are property rights on the other side of the issue also,” Samber said. “That being said our county setback is 1,000 feet and I know that that may or may not be enough, but for the start of this project it’s 1,000 and now we’re looking at twice that. I guess I see that as a fair compromise.”
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