Somerset wind ordinance sent back for review
A draft ordinance to regulate large-scale wind turbines will be sent back to the Somerset County Planning Commission for review and possible revisions before County Commissioners will consider its adoption.
The commissioners last week asked Planning Commission members to review the document, make revisions, hold a public hearing and send their recommendation back to the commissioners by Oct. 3.
County Commissioners also would hold their own public hearing on the proposed ordinance before voting on it, Rex Simpkins, president of the County Commissioner, told members of Safe For Somerset, a grassroots organization opposed to the project.
Although the county’s Planning Commission completed work on the first draft ordinance in 2012, County Commissioners never adopted it.
Meanwhile, some county residents have raised concerns about how large-scale industrial turbines might affect the environment, health of nearby residents and the general quality of life in rural Somerset County.
Safe For Somerset members have said they would like to see greater setbacks between the turbines and homes, schools and public roads.
Officials with Pioneer Green, the company hoping to build 50 wind turbines on land stretching from Marion Station to Westover, recently asked County Commissioners to finalize an ordinance as soon as possible.
Timing is important because in order to capture production tax credits, the wind farm has to be in operation by the end of 2015, Adam Cohen, a vice president of the company, said recently.
“Obviously, the faster the better,” company official Paul Harris said of the ordinance review process.
Over the past two years, the company has gotten 70 signed agreements with about 200 Somerset County landowners.
The plan calls for the wind turbines to be erected during two phases of construction.
While the largest wind turbines currently on the market measure 670 feet to the tip of the blade, Harris said he was unsure how tall the ones planned for Somerset County will be.
“We’re nowhere near a final selection,” he said.
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