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Tougher permitting for wind turbines

The first reading of an ordinance aimed at construction permits for such structures as wind turbines was approved Thursday by Mason County officials.

During a special meeting, Ordinance 14-04 was read in summary by County Attorney John Estill to fiscal court members Phil Day, Pat McKay IV, Annette Walters and Judge-Executive James L. “Buddy” Gallenstein.

The ordinance is the result of months of discussion and debate about a possible wind turbine farm proposed in May’s Lick by Duke Energy Renewables.

The ordinance amends county Ordinance 05-08 to require permits to construct otherwise non-regulated structures or facilities creating electric power, creating an inspection program for such projects, and requiring fees therefore, and otherwise mandating the creation of safety standards for such structures or facilities.

Estill reminded county officials and members of the Citizens Voice of Mason County in attendance the action to enact the ordinance is not meant to discourage the work being done by the Mason County Joint Planning Commission to draft a comprehensive zoning ordinance related to wind turbines in the county.

“We are basically attempting to stay away from anything planning and zoning is doing,” said Estill.

Under the ordinance, which undergo a second reading before becoming official, “a development and construction permit would be required prior to construction or erection of any wind powered electric generating plants, any solar powered generating plants, any other object which is a merchant electric generating facility as defined in KRS 278.700 (2), provided that any facility or structure which is regulated by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Public Service Commission, and service facilities in connection with a regulated utility’s structures or facility, shall be exempted from the permit requirements and otherwise are not subjected to this ordinance.”

The ordinance calls for a pre-construction notice of at least 180 days before construction; a construction permit reviewed by the judge-executive; an application fee of $2,500; inspection schedule during and after construction; and structure and facilities standards, which are yet to be adopted.

Structure and facilities standards would include but are not limited to: electric transmission lines and station; height/blade clearance; lighting; noise; nuisance issues such as shadow flicker; water resources.

Issuance of construction permits as outlined in the ordinance are also prohibited until the development of standards outlined in the document are adopted.

Officials agreed the document may undergo some changes, additions or revisions before the final draft of the ordinance is presented for a second reading at the April 15 regular meeting of Mason County Fiscal Court.