PIERCE – Approval or any other action on proposed wind-farm regulations in Pierce County could come as soon as two weeks.
Then again, it could be later.
About 10 people attended the Pierce County board of commissioners’ meeting Monday that included discussion of wind farm regulations put forth by the county’s planning commission.
The commissioners also discussed a public hearing last week in which 22 people testified on the proposed regulations that would govern such things as setback distances of houses next to wind turbines.
Commissioners didn’t take action Monday on the regulations after discussing them for about 30 minutes.
Before adjourning, they directed Pierce County Clerk Shannon Wragge to place the topic on the agenda for their next meeting set for Monday, Nov. 20, with possible action to be taken.
Copies of the five pages of proposed regulations have been distributed at meetings and were again Monday. Wragge said they will continue to remain on the Pierce County web site so people may review them.
Commissioner Marvin Elwood Jr. of Plainview asked if anyone knew where the proposed wind farms were being considered.
Heather McWhorter, who serves as the Pierce and Madison counties’ zoning administrator, said she thought an area might be in southwest Pierce County. She asked the company representatives in attendance at Monday’s meeting if that was correct.
In response, one person said there was interest in land in the southwest part of the county. A different person said his company was looking at three townships in the southeast part of the county.
McWhorter said she has been contacted by a third company but wasn’t sure what area it might be considering.
McWhorter also reviewed the possible actions commissioners could take:
— One option would be to pass the regulations as put forth by the planning commission.
— Another is to make changes to the regulations suggested by the planning commission.
— Another is to provide some directions to the planning commission and ask them to make changes based on that input.
— A final option would be to do nothing and let regulations in place from at least 10 years ago remain in effect.
Some county residents have previously expressed the opinion that they don’t believe the existing regulations are stringent enough.
One of the areas discussed Monday focused on testimony presented during last week’s hearing, including that wind farm companies could have farmers responsible for costs to remove the turbines after they no longer are in use.
Terry Wragge of Pierce, chairman of the county board, asked to review the pertinent section of the proposed regulations. It requires applicants to submit a decommissioning plan and irrevocable line of credit or an escrow bearing at least 10 percent of the original cost of the wind turbine to ensure sufficient funds are available for removal.
Wragge said he would not mind having the funds be put forth up front, rather than in about the 10th year of operation. Wragge said he also wouldn’t mind increasing the amount to 25 percent of the cost of each turbine.
Commissioners were directed to contact McWhorter with any changes to the proposed regulations.
McWhorter also was asked to address a concern raised at last week’s public hearing that farmers next to a wind turbine would not be able to hunt on their land.
Reading from the regulations, McWhorter indicated that people living next to them would be able to keep doing all regular practices associated with farming land, including hunting.
She also indicated that it is important to remember that these are just regulations. Once in place, a company would have to submit an application for a specific project and receive the county’s approval.
Pierce County currently has a moratorium on wind farm projects that is expected to be lifted in December.
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