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Wind farm study under fire again

For the second month in a row, residents of May’s Lick attended Tuesday’s fiscal court meeting to express their opposition to and concerns about a potential wind farm in Mason County.

Mike Averdick serves as spokesman for the citizens, who asked last month that a countywide moratorium on wind energy projects be implemented so that zoning, regulations and policies of such a project could be studied.

Also in attendance Tuesday was Dave Clarke, who spoke in favor of the project and was the first landowner in the area to sign a lease with Duke Energy. Duke Energy is conducting a study in the May’s Lick area to determine if a wind energy project has potential in Mason County. The study also encompasses land in Fleming County.

County Attorney John Estill said Mason County finds itself in the unusual position of being the first community in Kentucky to be tapped for a wind turbine farm. Duke Energy’s study is the second within two years to take place: in 2011, NextEra Energy conducted a study in the Germantown/Minerva area of the county and it appears the project has been scraped.

Like the NextEra study, Duke Energy is in the study phase and is attempting to assemble land leases, should a wind turbine farm prove viable.

At the heart of the issue for May’s Lick residents, as well as those opposed to the NextEra study, is the issue of setbacks from the road and property lines; flicker shadows; noise; lowered property values; and harm to humans and wildlife.

Clarke pointed out in his statement to county commissioners Pat McKay, Phil Day and Annette Walters that his research has shown that humans who have complained of health issues related to the erection of a wind turbine near their property, became healthy once the wind company offered annual compensation to the complainant.

Estill said with no other communities in the state being considered at this point for a wind farm, it is unclear how a wind energy project would be regulated. Attempts to get an opinion on the matter from the Kentucky Public Service Cooperation, which regulates utility companies, in 2011 went unanswered, Estill said. Mason County Judge-Executive James L. “Buddy” Gallenstein has reached out to Gov. Steve Beshear’s office on the matter also, with no success.

At issue with the study, and project should it become a reality, is what regulations would govern the project; whether they are local or state regulations. Estill said the county is in the midst of researching and drafting an ordinance that would address setbacks and noise. However, Estill also pointed out if the PSC regulates wind turbine farms just as they do electric and gas utilities, the Maysville-Mason County Planning and Zoning Commission and its ordinances have no jurisdiction in the matter.

In other business, the court:

— Learned clean up attempts by Steve Frodge, director of the Mason County Recycling Center and his employees at the former Minerva school gymnsiaum have come to a stop. Frodge said 450 tires were removed from the inside of the old gym before work stopped. He said he investigated the possibility of securing a state grant to clean up illegal dumps, but the property doesn’t qualify in this case because the tires are inside the building, not outside. Frodge said he has also had contact with the state air quality division in Ashland about questionable materials inside the building and those used for construction of the building such as roof materials that have caved into the building. The project to clean up the property is ongoing, as options are explored to clean up the problem.

— Accepted a deed of dedication related to Utopia Estates subdivision on Kentucky 11. The county and developers of the property have been in an ongoing dispute since 1999 about the county maintaining the roadway, and finally settled claims related to the matter earlier this year.

The next regular meeting of the Mason County Fiscal Court is scheduled for Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 9 a.m.