ELM SPRINGS – The Planning Commission Monday unanimously supported rezoning 311 acres for a wind farm. More than a dozen residents spoke out against the plan.
“We are not the last step,” said Matt Casey, commission chairman, who told the crowd of about 50 people the group’s vote is strictly a recommendation.
The Elm Springs City Council will make the final decision next Monday.
Elite Energy owns the land for the proposed wind farm on the western side of town. Cody Fell, one of the company’s owners, presented his firm’s request that seeks to have the property turned from agricultural to industrial. Elite Energy wants to partner with Dragonfly Industries International on the wind farm that would have shrouded wind turbine design resembling a jet engine.
Fell said the rezoning would revert back to agricultural if the wind farm is not built. Casey suggested he draft a bill of assurance that outlines that stipulation, and the commission’s 5-0 vote included that as a condition of its recommendation.
Mayor Harold Douthit said there will be no discussion before the City Council’s vote next week.
“It’s repetition and I heard nothing new,” he said after the commission’s meeting. “People have had an opportunity to be heard.”
City officials started debating the issue earlier this year and annexed the land Oct. 19. More than 100 people attended a town hall meeting in the spring and community members formed a group called “Stop the Elm Springs Wind Farm.”
Most of the concerns voiced Monday dealt with possible decreased land values, health concerns, noise and impact on wildlife.
Freida Rogers said she has lived in her house that neighbors the proposed wind farm for 30 years and opposes the project. She said the majority of her neighbors moved to the area because of its beauty.
“When are we going to know the answers to all these what ifs?” she asked.
She was not alone in wanting more answers, but Casey said those issues would be discussed during the large-scale development phase following a rezoning. He said the scope of would could be considered for rezoning was limited and included things such as compatibility, public opposition, safety, noise and impact on neighboring land values.
“I don’t like the fact Dragonfly did not have a representative here,” said Robert Craine, commissioner.
Fell said Dragonfly would have representatives at the next meeting.
Jonathon Hamby is ready to fight the project to the end. He is a leader of the group opposing the project and built a house on land that would border the proposed wind farm. Hamby has lived in the home with his wife and three children for 16 months.
“Having a wind farm 300 feet from my backdoor would make my home unsellable,” he said.
The group filed a lawsuit fighting the annexation, but later asked that it be dropped. They are now gathering signatures and are hoping to put it to a vote of the people.
“We’re fighting this on all fronts,” he said.
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