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County can't decide on wind farm finance issue

News editor

They passed it off to the planning and zoning board, but when a recommendation came back to them Monday, county commissioners deferred for more study the question of what kind of financing evidence may be required for the Doyle Creek wind farm project.

Zoning regulations include a clause requiring wind farms to show evidence of a specific buyer for the electricity they produce, called a power purchase agreement (PPA). At the request of county commissioners, the planning and zoning board at a public hearing determined the item didn’t belong in regulations specific to land use.

“I don’t really want to be the person deciding what’s evidence and what’s not,” Planning and Zoning Director Tonya Richards said. “The board really felt it shouldn’t be where it is in the zoning regulations right now, so they made a recommendation the section be removed.”

“I think the basic thing you hit on was zooming in about land use,” Commission Chairman Dan Holub said. “PPA has nothing to do with land use. These issues need to be discussed, but I think it needs to be at our level.”

Planning and Zoning Board Chairman Nick Kraus said five applications for the wind farm have been approved with the PPA requirement in place. He said if commissioners approved removing the requirement, they should implement an alternative review process.

“Obviously we thought it was important enough that it should be in there,” Kraus said. “I don’t want you to just take our recommendation — it needs to be simultaneous.”

Commissioner Randy Dallke once again raised the question of road use and maintenance, one that has been addressed in prior meetings of the commission and planning and zoning board.

Rex Savage of Windborne Energy reiterated a video assessment of county roads used for the project would be done prior to the start of construction, and in collaboration with county personnel. Agreements already signed require $7 million in cash or performance bonds to address road and bridge concerns.

Developmental rights were also included in the regulation dealing with power purchase agreements that should be left in place, Savage said.

That triggered 10 minutes of additional discussion, after which commissioners agreed the matter should be reviewed by County Attorney Susan Robson before taking action.

“Let Susan look at it and make sure we’re cool, then we can do that again,” Holub said.

In other business:

  • An exception was granted to Monty Stuchlik for a new farm shop building nearly completed to receive property tax breaks under the neighborhood revitalization program. Stuchlik said he did not apply for the program before construction started, as required by program rules, because he thought the program had been terminated.
  • Assistant road and bridge foreman Bud Druse was named director of the weed, hazardous waste, transfer station and recycling departments, filling the vacancy created by the departure of Rollin Schmidt.
  • Emergency Management Director Randy Frank will attend the Federal Emergency Management Agency Master Exercise Planning Program training in Virginia, beginning in the fall. The cost for attending is paid by FEMA. Frank said the program will help him to effectively plan practice scenarios for emergency responders.
  • Commissioners met in executive session for 35 minutes with EMS Director Brandy McCarty, County Attorney Susan Robson, and EMS board chairman Gene Winkler to discuss non-elected ambulance personnel matters. No decisions were made.

Last modified April 22, 2015

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