March 10, 2015

Residents file lawsuit against County Commissioners over wind farm project

By Kelsey Kennedy | March 10, 2015 |

EL PASO COUNTY – Four El Paso County residents have filed a lawsuit against the Board of County Commissioners over changes to a planned wind farm in Eastern El Paso County. News5 found out they don’t want raised high voltage power lines traveling from the wind farm south of Calhan, through their neighborhoods to a power plant.

They allege County Commissioners approved changes at a meeting in February without following proper procedures and that their decision was arbitrary.

Joan Wilson has has been living in Falcon since 2005. She’s worried the planned placement of high-voltage power lines will disrupt her peace and quiet and views.

“Yes there is a lot of wide open spaces here, and they are going through some of them,” she said. “In my neighborhood, they’re coming across the east, south and west.”

The original plan for the wind farm includes 147 wind turbines and was approved by the Board of County Commissioners in December of 2013. The project has since been acquired by NextEra Energy. The company applied to make changes to the original plan that not everybody is happy about.

“They’re rerouting them through residential neighborhoods,” Wilson said.

News5 was at the marathon commission meeting in February when the changes were approved.

The County hasn’t been served the lawsuit yet, but is aware of it. Commissioner Amy Lathen says this is not uncommon when it comes to land use issues. For now, it won’t stop construction. “Unless there is an injunction that is filed and supported by the court, the applicant has every right to go ahead and continue with plans,” she said.

The County believes that the requested changes were a given full and thoughtful consideration, established processes were followed and evidence on both sides of the land use request was considered in making a final determination.

Wilson wants the plans to go back to what was approved in 2013. She said she’d be happy if the above ground power lines ran along Highway 24 instead of through neighborhoods. About four miles of transmission lines are slated to go underground.

The lawsuit also claims commissioners broke the law by meeting with the energy company during an executive session. Lathen assures that never happened.

Count on News5 to continue following this developing story.

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