Friday, January 15, 2010

Wind-energy ordinance gets final OK

New law permits turbines

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance that will permit and regulate wind-energy facilities, bringing to an end a process that has taken about a dozen public hearings and witnessed multiple drafts.

At a regular meeting at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey, the commission made minor editorial changes to the draft ordinance, but the main regulations remained the same.

In residential zones, the ordinance allows roof-mounted wind turbines of up to 40 feet above ground level on properties of five acres or more without requiring a conditional-use permit. That means property owners with large enough lots can install a turbine that doesn't reach above the 40-foot mark without going before the Planning and Zoning Commission for a public hearing. Likewise, freestanding turbines of up to 40 feet are allowed on properties of more than 10 acres without a conditional-use permit.

In agricultural zones with parcels over 20 acres (A-20 and A-40), freestanding turbines also do not need conditional-use approval and can range up to 120 feet.

"I feel like we struck a balance with guidelines that provide the opportunity for public input," Commission Chair Larry Schoen said in an interview. "We're not forcing anyone to put these on their property or saying what company they should use. In fact, I would caution people that these projects can be expensive and they should do their homework to ensure that [a wind energy facility] will accomplish what they want."

During the hearing process, the commission responded to comments from the public by prohibiting turbines within the "scenic corridor," the area visible from state Highway 75 north of Glendale Road in Bellevue.

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