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Garden residents seek zoning amendment for wind turbines

GARDEN – The Delta County Planning Commission will address a petition calling for the amendment of the county’s zoning ordinance for wind turbines at a meeting Tuesday.

A wind farm has been running on the Garden Peninsula for about two years, and Fred Bates, Concerned Citizens of Garden and Cooks, LLC Chairman of the Executive Committee, said that it’s caused problems in the area ever since.

The turbines are noisy, kill wildlife, and reduce property values, according to Bates.

However, not everyone believes the turbines have been more trouble than they’re worth. Fairbanks Township Supervisor Ron Collins said that many complaints about them, such as issues with noise, are more subjective than objective – and that, even if property values in the area have dropped, it’s the result of larger, unrelated trends.

“That started several years ago, that you started seeing ‘for sale’ signs around,” Collins said.

One of the primary goals of CCG’s petition is to increase wind turbine setbacks – essentially the distance between turbines and occupied buildings.

In Delta County, wind turbines have to be built at least 1,320 feet from dwellings, Bates said.

But currently, the “safety zones” surrounding the turbines can extend into other people’s property. Bates said this limits these people’s ability to use their own land freely, as they cannot build in these zones without a permit from the county.

“We figure that’s unfair, and we want the setback to be set on the property line, not the neighbor’s house,” he said.

In addition, Bates said the current setbacks allow turbines to be built too close to the peninsula’s shoreline, which can be dangerous for migrating birds.

Collins, who was on the committee formed to come up with a proposal for Delta County’s wind turbine ordinance, said he was in favor of larger setbacks from non-participating property lines than those which were approved. However, he also said that CCG’s proposed setbacks would be too large to allow for the existence of a workable wind farm in Garden.

“What they’re proposing is not reasonable for the area, if you want to have wind turbines,” Collins said. “I can support a certain increase, but not nearly what they’re saying.”

Bates said that the petition also supports the reduction of sound generated by the turbines and the amendment of the current zoning ordinance’s section on turbine removal.

“We’re trying to make the demolition and removal part of the ordinance flexible, so it can take care of all contingencies,” Bates said.

Beyond these issues, the wind turbines have had a negative effect on relationships between members of the Garden Peninsula community, Bates said. In one town meeting held before the turbines were built, citizens who supported the turbines told citizens who were against them to sit down and stop talking.

“It was obvious that there was a fracture beginning,” Bates said.

Collins said that, while tensions surrounding the wind farm do exist in Garden, he feels they are in no way insurmountable.

“You’ve got to expect some controversy on anything,” Collins said. “It’s a little disappointing that it’s so severe.”