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Reading wind farm decision postponed

The Lyon County Commission voted to send the proposal for a zoning change on a potential wind farm near Reading back to the Lyon County Planning and Appeals Board Thursday.

In a November meeting, the planning board voted 6-1 to recommend the zoning change, which would change nearly 17,000 acres of the project area from agricultural land to agricultural special use. The board recommended the change with two conditions: an extension request for the zoning change if construction hasn’t begun on the project by 2018 and a 1,640-foot turbine setback from any property lines.

It was the setback which caused commissioners Rollie Martin and Dan Slater to vote to send the issue back to the planning board. Commission Scott Briggs recused himself from both discussion and a vote on the project due to owning land in the area of the proposed wind farm.

“I think we need to go back and re-establish … and research the setbacks,” Martin said. “There’s two setbacks – there’s one for residents and there is one for property lines and I believe the one for property lines was put in without enough research, or education or facts to allow us to move forward.

“Until we have all those – or the planning board reconsiders this – and becomes more educational to us and makes their recommendation in 45 days. I think we need the time to re-evaluate what this is going to do and if we’re actually going to do it.”

Both opponents and supporters of the project gathered in the commission chambers during the meeting and addressed the commission during the section for public comment.

Dustin Charapata was one of the citizens who addressed the commission about the project. Both Dustin and his father, Steve, said they were in favor of the project, but had concerns about the 1,640-foot setback condition.

“The 1,640 restriction from any property line would take out 79 percent of the land we had leased to RES (Americas),” Dustin said.

Other supporters of the project had similar concerns on the setback rule.

Opponents of the project expressed concerns on a variety of issues including safety, the larger setback helping to protect landowners from potential ice buildup on the turbines, concerns of noise as well as the efficiency of turbines.

“I think this is a little premature,” Carl Antes said. “There are some safety concerns which should be looked at, some taxation issues which aren’t clear to landowners in the vicinity – whether the value of their property will change at all – some information which might be misleading. I think we should hang onto this a little longer so people will understand the full impact.”

Martin thanked those on both sides of the issue, saying he was glad to see the discussion remain civil throughout the process. Slater said he was dedicated to making the best decision for the community.

“If we’re going to have a wind farm, it has to be the best wind farm we can possibly build,” Slater said.

Jeffrey Sabins, senior development manager for RES Americas, said the commissioner’s decision would prove to be a positive one for the proposed wind farm.

“I think this result is very positive,” Sabins said. “The landowners in the project about the concerns – about the setback – and I believe the commissioners have heard those concerns and that’s why we’re going to have a conversation with the planning board again. I have a lot of faith that – with a little more time to think about this – I think the planning board is going to come to the same conclusion that safety is the paramount, and we’re trying to address that with the smaller setback.”

The Lyon County Commission meets at 8 a.m. on Thursdays with 9:45 a.m. time for public comment.