Blaine County P & Z conservative on wind power
The Wood River Journal Hailey
Wednesday, July 18

Blaine County residents thinking about installing a wind turbine to help with energy generation and usage costs will have to wait 180 days before submitting applications after the planning and zoning commission voted draft a moratorium disallowing such applications at Thursday night’s regular commission meeting.

Two applications for installation of wind turbines currently submitted to the commission, both also denied in their current format, were thought to be complete and were advised they would not be subject to the moratorium.

The commission wavered on whether to impose the moratorium on all turbines or only on those turbines over 35 feet in height. Blaine County attorney Tim Graves advised that imposition of such a moratorium would have to state that allowing the applications of the turbines would pose an “imminent peril to the health, safety and welfare” of Blaine County residents.

“I felt in peril by the noise here in Idaho,” Commissioner Pat Murphy stated, adding that “A lot of big commercial operations have been shut down and I have to wonder why.” Chip Bailey cited imminent perils of noise, danger to birds, aesthetic peril from appearance of the towers and physical peril should tower support wires fail and setbacks were insufficient to prevent placement in close proximity to human traffic.

Some commissioners stated fears that, done incorrectly, installations of wind turbines might follow the unattractive path of satellite dish installations, causing problems due to the urgency and demand of customers desiring the technology, worrying they might be deluged with applications. Planning and Zoning staff member Brett Stevenson noted that she had fielded a few calls recently with regard to the installation of turbines.

In discussion it was thought that the Wood River Valley did not support turbine installation due to a lack of appropriate wind speed. Commissioners were unaware of the development of turbines designed for residential installation that are smaller and more efficient in generating power from lower wind speeds, making the technology appropriate for residents outside a previously designated “hot dog” target area for wind generation in Southern Idaho.

Once apparent that the commissioners would vote 5-1 in favor of a moratorium, with Commissioner Brooke Bonner standing against the proposal, the duration swung between 60 and 365 days, finally settling on 180 days.

“We’re scheduled for the next 60 days,” Commission Chair Chip Bailey noted, adding it would be at least that long before the commission could even consider the issue, which would then require some time to work through, as several commissioners registered their limited knowledge of the issue was a factor in favoring the moratorium.

Commissioners Robb Peck, Brooke Bonner and Doug Werth were in favor of a narrowly tailored moratorium document, while Pat Murphy, Brian ______ voted for a broad interpretation.

“This certainly does throw a perception out there that we don’t support wind power. I worry about it,” Peck stated.

Chair Chip Bailey stated, “We do feel that wind power is a valuable thing,” but noted that in order to “do it right,” the commissioners require more input and an understanding of current technology. Commissioner Murphy said he hoped that the installation of a moratorium did not send a negative message, and hoped it would instead drive more information toward the commission so that an informed ordinance could be drafted.

Tom Bergin of the Planning and Zoning staff agreed to draft a moratorium document for the next meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thurs., July 19, in the Old County Courthouse.