December 11, 2013

More work to be done before wind project heads to JPC

MARLA TONCRAY | The Ledger Independent | December 10, 2013 |

Securing the services of a consultant and retaining legal representation are the most recent developments in the ongoing dialog about a possible wind turbine farm in Mason County.

During Tuesday’s fiscal court meeting, county officials agreed to hire Steve Edson of Indiana, as a consultant to guide them through the planning and zoning process. The move is geared to help officials understand what can be contained in ordinances related to wind energy projects, and what has worked in other communities, before sending the issue before the Maysville-Mason County Joint Planning Commission.

Edson is a planning and zoning administrator for Tipton County, Ind., and the city of Tipton. He is currently working with Tipton officials to draft a third version of standards and regulations related to wind turbine farms in Tipton County.

County officials decided in October to secure the services of a professional in the area of wind energy to offer advice on drafting zoning ordinances. In November, they ruled out hiring someone from the academic field, opting instead for someone with first-hand experience in a community with wind turbines.

“He is a planning and zoning administrator with specific expertise that he brings to us,” said County Attorney John Estill.

Edson said zoning and planning for wind energy is “the most challenging,” for communities.

“I urge communities to have a lot of thought and discussion as to what you need and want when it comes to these projects,” he said. “You would be well served to be deliberative about it…it warrants up front thinking and planning in the beginning.”

Edson will be contracted at $60 per hour for his services, which will begin during the first quarter of 2014.

Opponents to the wind farm project, which is proposed by Duke Energy and has already resulted in land leases with several farmers in the May’s Lick area, have hired a Lexington attorney to represent their interests.

Joe Pfeffer, spokesperson for the Citizens Voice of Mason County, said the group has hired Liz Edmondson of Liz Edmondson Law LLC to represent the interests of the group. Pfeffer said landowners in May’s Lick still feel “somewhat unprotected” by a resolution passed last month to limit permitting for use or crossing county roads.

Resolution 13-21 states: It is hereby resolved by the fiscal court of Mason County, Kentucky, that the county judge-executive, county road supervisor or any other officer or employee of the Mason Fiscal Court shall not grant or issue a license or permit for the use or crossing of any county road, right of way or other structure or property within the county maintained road system for the construction, operation or maintenance of any wind energy system or individual turbines or other structures within such project, and further that neither the county judge-executive nor any other county officer or employee shall grant an easement, enter into any other agreement, or otherwise give any permission for such use or crossing, until such time as the county considers and adopts an ordinance pertaining to wind energy facilities within Mason County.”

“We want our property rights protected,” said Pfeffer. CVMC has been requesting a moratorium on the wind project for months, and did so again Tuesday.

Pfeffer said after the meeting Edmondson wasn’t hired to initiate litigation in the case, but rather she is there to inform non-participating landowners on issues of zoning and land use, and environmental and energy issues.

“We are unclear what the precise steps will be … she will advise us on what will take place. I don’t think it hurts any of us to get an outside opinion. We are not looking for litigation, we are looking for protection and advice,” Pfeffer said.

Following discussion, Edmondson, Edson and Estill reviewed digitized maps of May’s Lick at the Property Valuation Administrators office.

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