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Planning, zoning continues work on wind turbine regulations

PIERCE – The Pierce County Planning and Zoning Commission held a regular meeting Monday, Aug. 21, and one agenda item was the continued discussion and consideration of updated zoning regulations for the locating and construction of wind turbines in Pierce County.
Approximately 15 county residents were in attendance. Residents asked questions, or expressed concerns about setbacks, allowing the towers to be too close to homes and property. Concerns were also expressed about health issues some said could be associated with the turbines.
Much of the discussion by commission members centered around set-backs, how far away wind towers would be set back from existing buildings and houses. There was also discussion about the costs of decommissioning the towers, how the costs to remove them would be covered and by whom, should the towers be abandoned 15-20 years in the future.
Consultant Keith Marvin was present at the meeting. The Planning and Zoning Commission began, eight or nine months back, the process of updating the county zoning regulations covering wind turbines. The county board hired Marvin Planning Consultants to update and amend the regulations. At the meeting, Marvin said there were still some questions he was checking into. The commission added a few other questions and suggested additional changes to be made to the regulations.
Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Gerry Krueger said the regulations are still a work in progress and feels that any action on the item be tabled until the next meeting.
The commission voted unanimously to table the issue.
Pierce County Zoning Administrator Heather McWhorter noted that at this time, no conditional use permits have been requested by any wind turbine company for the construction of wind towers. Land owners in the southwest part of Pierce County have been contacted by a wind energy company, offering lease payments to hold land with the option to offer contracts in the future, to construct wind towers on the property.
Once the updated regulations are complete, the County Planning and Zoning Commission will vote to recommend, or not to recommend the Pierce County Board of Commissioners approve the updated regulations. The county commissioners will have the final say on whether or not to approve the regulations.
On June 19, the county commissioners approved a resolution placing a six-month moratorium on accepting any commercial wind energy farm applications in Pierce County. That will be in effect until December 2017. The moratorium was to allow time for the regulations to be updated and amended.