On December 19, the Board of County Commissioners voted 3-1 to support the Golden West Wind Energy wind farm project in eastern El Paso County. This was one of the most complex land use applications that I have ever seen in my 6 years on the Board and certainly one of the most controversial. It was the first permit we’ve heard under the newly enacted 1041 authority that we now have, which allowed us to negotiate many of the terms and conditions of the farm.
Thanks also to those who came to our hearing on the 19th and spent 11 hours with us as we worked through the details and testimony of the hearing. Please know that with all of the input that came in, it was nearly impossible to respond to each one.
I read every letter and email that came to my office. I watched the videos that many of you sent and spent hours online looking at pros and cons. I traveled to properties in the county to meet with land owners and I travelled to the large wind farm in Limon and knocked on doors of folks out there to ask about their impressions. I stood under these wind turbines and listened and videoed. I sat within the shadows of the machines and considered their impacts. I thought about homes and living rooms and bedrooms of folks who would be impacted, positively or negatively.
I realize that with my vote, I simply could not satisfy roughly half of my constituents. Although I didn’t actually keep a specific tally, the pros and cons seemed pretty split right down the middle. This was the most difficult land use decision I’ve ever made, and likely ever will make on this Board.
I vigorously support private business and research and development of new and diverse technologies, but I fundamentally oppose State and Federal mandates related to energy diversity, which require local governments to intervene in what I believe should be driven by market forces.
I ultimately voted no. This was not a vote against business. It was not a vote against property owners. It was not even a vote against wind energy. But it was a vote against this particular project based on the number of property owners who live in extremely close proximity to proposed turbines who did not want them so close to their homes and who will be greatly impacted.
For setbacks, I wanted to see a minimum of a half-mile from any primary residence, due to noise (and they do make noise), flicker and other factors. Agreement was reached on a quarter-mile setback, increased from a proposed minimum of just 640.5 ft, for anyone who did not sign an agreement with the company. This was a compromise, but one that I believe still allows them to be too close to residences and until you experience these up close, you just might not be sure why that is so critical.
This project has been approved and so we will move forward together to try to make it as beneficial for El Paso County as possible.
– Amy Lathen, County commissioner