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Reworked wind farm proposed outside Ellensburg

ELLENSBURG, Wash. – A group of companies has applied to build a 58-turbine wind farm 15 miles east of Ellensburg.

The proposal is a new version of a project first proposed in 2011 and denied by Kittitas County government. Supporters say the new proposal has been reconfigured, scaled down and is designed to reduce impacts on scenic views.

Columbia Plateau Wind Energy Facility LLC of Mill Creek has filed for two permits with county Community Development Services for the wind farm, instead of one filed for in 2011, according to county Planning Official Robert “Doc” Hansen.

A site-specific rezone is sought to expand the boundaries of the county’s wind-power overlay zone to take in a 3,077-acre zigzagging area to the southwest.

The lands will be purchased or leased for the project, according to proponents.

The other permit is a site- and project-specific comprehensive land-use plan amendment to develop a wind farm with up to 58 turbine tower locations already proposed.

The turbines and towers, according to filing documents, would be about 440 feet from the tip of a vertically extended rotor blade to the ground.

“It’s a very different kind of animal,” Hansen said last week about the land-use filings by Columbia Plateau. “It’s unusual to have a rezone filed for with a comp plan amendment.”

Columbia Plateau spokesman and project director Doug Mitchell said he hopes area residents won’t rush to judgment about the company’s wind farm proposal but closely examine the plans and learn about the benefits the project can have for the community.

One filing supports the other and both encompass a wind farm project that will later require more public hearings and review of a development agreement if the county approves the comp plan actions before a Dec. 31, 2013 deadline, Hansen said.

A spokesman for the new project last week declined to indicate at this time what firms are involved but said they were a consortium of companies involved in the renewable energy industry.

He said Columbia Plateau partners are Gene Martin of the Ellensburg area and Keun Ryu of Mill Creek.

In 2011, the Columbia Plateau effort was backed by two South Korean corporations; owners of the rural property to be sold for the wind farm included Gene Martin and Gordon Tang, according to filings at that time.

A group of neighbors around the wind farm site are organizing to oppose the project, contending it will reduce property values and hurt the scenic and rural qualities of the area.

Harland Radomske of Venture Road said he will do all he can to oppose the project. The new project, according to maps submitted to the county, will bring at least six towers within a quarter mile of his property line and hangars near his private airstrip.

“If they want to be good neighbors they should just keep their project in (the wind-power overlay) zone,” Radomske said last week.

In 2011, the Kittitas County Planning Commission, after public hearings, unanimously recommended a similar proposal be denied as part of the county’s annual comprehensive land-use plan amendment process. County commissioners conducted their own hearings on the recommendation and also voted to deny the proposal.

Hansen was expected to meet with county commissioners this morning to discuss the amendments that are being sought to the county’s comp plan this year, including the Columbia Plateau filings.

Hansen said he will ask commissioners for direction on which filings should go forward through the review process this year, and which could be delayed until next year’s amendment process.

Hansen said once commissioners approve of the list of amendments to be scrutinized, the list will go to the state Department of Commerce for comments.

The first public open house events to inform the community about the proposals likely will be in August, Hansen said.