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County P & Z approve wind farm and MET tower

BINGHAM COUNTY – The Bingham County Planning and Zoning Commission met with two items on the agenda—both for Cedar Creek Wind LLC. Cedar Creek has been before the P & Z in the past with meteorological tower sites, and would be requesting another Conditional Use Permit to install another one as they continue to search for a working location to start a wind farm.

Following the presentation from Planning and Development’s staff, the commission invited the applicant to speak. The verified that it would be another meteorological tower being placed for the next location, but it would come with conditions from Idaho Fish and Game who asked that the guy wires be is minimal as possible so that they do not become hazards to passing birds. Cedar Creek Wind had no objections to the stipulations from IDFG and the meteorological tower passed unanimously.

WIND FARM

Cedar Creek Wind LLC also requested variances on setbacks to start the construction of a wind farm on 325 acres that they own in sections 9, 10, 15, and 16.

These areas are zoned NR/A (Natural Resource or Agriculture) and are not limited to the what can be placed on the land without a CUP or zone change but sat close enough to land owned by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). One need for the variance came into play because in Bingham County code, it is required that the setback distance from another’s property or the right of way must be equal to one-and-a-half times the height of the wind turbine. The setback requirements were not something that the applicant wanted changed, except near the section of land owned by BLM, which is approximately 80 acres. According to the BLM Approved Resource Management Plan, dated August 4, 2008, Plan and Zone Private Lands: the BLM does not have any authority to determine how private lands are used. Planning and Zoning is done on a local level by county or municipal governments. Because of this provision, the land owner has to request a variance to the same requirements as set forth by the Bingham County Planning and Zoning Commission’s standards.

The BLM land is encompassed by the landowner’s property creating a need for a setback for the entire piece. Because of the amount that would have been required to be set back by the county without a variance, Cedar Creek would have lost twice as much space to setbacks—three acres instead of one-and-a-half—limiting their ability to utilize the land for the most wind turbines.

The county has many provisions in the code to explain all of the requirements to install turbines in its jurisdiction including: setbacks, height requirements, minimum clearance of 75 feet for the fan blades, where they can be placed, and how they must be deconstructed if they are ever not producing power.

Despite the conditions, the county passed the request unanimously to provide the variance, limiting the setbacks to one-and-a-half times the height of the turbine at its peak.