August 27, 2013

Council reverses course, discusses wind turbines in public

Written by Ben Felder, Editor | The Pidemont Citizen | August 26, 2013 |

The Piedmont city council had originally listed an executive session on Monday’s agenda to discuss a wind turbine ordinance and potential litigation, but ended up holding its discussion in public and ultimately voted to strengthen its stance against a proposed wind farm.

Two items relating to wind turbines were listed on the agenda as business items to be discussed in an executive session. Prior to the meeting, the Piedmont Citizen submitted a letter to the council expressing its opposition to the use of an executive session and claimed at least one of the items would have clearly violated the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act.

The council ended up holding a brief public discussion before voting to declare wind turbines beyond its city limits to be a public nuisance and to enter into a partnership with a local organization to potentially file a lawsuit against a wind energy company.

Following the council meeting, Pam Suttles, a founding member of the Central Oklahoma Property Rights Association (COPRA), which has been fighting the proposed wind farm, said the move by the council was a victory for her side.

“It’s a great day for Piedmont and we will be able to protect the city and the citizens,” Suttles said. “[That] has been our goal the whole time.”

Beyond the city

The city council voted over the past year to outlaw the construction of commercial wind turbines inside the city limits following the announcement by Apex Wind Energy last year that it was looking to build a wind farm west of Piedmont that would place some turbines inside the city limits.

On Monday night, the council amended that ordinance by specifying wind turbines to be a public nuisance not only inside the city, but three miles outside the borders.

“Cities do have the ability to go outside their borders if nuisances exist,” Councilman Charles Coffman said following the meeting. “[The ordinance] gave us clarity.”

Specific options for the city to enforce construction beyond its borers were not immediately clear following the meeting, but Coffman said the language added to the ordinance would provide some possibilities.

The council approved the amendment by a vote of three in favor, one against and Councilman Al Gleichmann abstaining. Councilman Donnie Robinson voted against the amendment and said it was bad policy for the city to attempt to enforce construction regulations beyond its borders. The city’s attorney responded to Robinson’s objection during the meeting by saying the city had a right to enforce certain issues outside its limits, but Robinson disagreed, saying he interpreted the state statue as only applying to land a city owned beyond its limits.

The council voted, 4-1, to make the amendment effective immediately.

Joining the fight

COPRA has indicated previously that it might seek legal action against Apex in an attempt to stop construction of turbines and the council voted on Monday to enter into a joint-prosecution agreement with COPRA to join in a potential lawsuit.

The agreement states that the city of Piedmont will not be required to pay legal fees for a potential lawsuit and Coffman also said he was confident that any counter action taken by Apex against the city would not make the city financially liable.

Robinson was the only vote against the legal partnership.

Private turns public

Monday’s agenda had originally listed the wind turbine discussions to take place in a private executive session. Prior to breaking for an executive session to discuss a separate manner, the city attorney announced that the council would reverse its course and hold the discussion in public.

Coffman said that the council’s only executive session of the night did not include discussion of the wind turbine issue and that he was pleased with the steps the city had taken to fight against the proposed wind farm.

“We are a growing metropolitan area,” Coffman said. “Why anybody would want to establish an industrial wind mill park right in the middle of a major growth pattern is beyond me. This is our last recourse.”

URL to article: