County to consider buffer zones

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By David Giuliani

The debate over San Miguel County’s proposed ordinance regulating wind farms has boiled down to one major issue — how far they should be away from homes.

On Tuesday, the County Commission will talk about creating buffer zones for wind turbines along the Pecos and Gallinas rivers — and idea raised in August. It’s not clear how wide the buffers would be.

The county wind farm task force has proposed a three-mile setback from homes, but the industry and its supporters have called such a restriction onerous and unworkable.

So in August, County Manager Les Montoya introduced the buffer-zone idea, which he said he received from a resident. A buffer would prevent not only turbines but also other industrial development in protected areas, officials said.

But a buffer around the Pecos River could possibly kill a proposed wind project on the nearby Bernal mesa. Chicago-based Invenergy has been pursuing the project for a couple of years, but it hasn’t turned in an application to the county.

Villanueva resident Gilbert Ortiz, who has entered a contract to allow Invenergy to use his land for turbines, is opposed to the buffer-zone idea.

“That’s an illegal taking of someone’s property. This is agricultural grazing property,” he said. “I could see a buffer zone in a municipality. But on a rural agricultural property — these guys are out in left field. You don’t have a single municipality in the entire Valley.”

Many residents in the Valley have come out against the proposed wind farm, saying it would ruin the Valley’s beauty and create noise.

County Commission Nicolas Leger said the commission will find out more about the buffer-zone proposal at the special meeting on Tuesday.

“I want to get a wind ordinance resolved sooner rather than later. At some point, you have to say that you have to get it done,” he said.

The county has had a moratorium on wind farm proposals since the spring of 2009, when a task force was formed to create a new ordinance.

The county’s existing ordinance on wind turbines has been in effect since 2003.


What: Special meeting of the County Commission to discuss buffer zones for wind farms.

When: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: Commission’s chambers on the second floor of the old County Courthouse.

Information: Call the county manager’s office at 425-9333.