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County voters might get to weigh in on wind farm
The public may get a chance to offer the Union County Board of Commissioners some guidance on the Antelope Ridge Wind Farm question, but probably not until November.
Thursday, the board convened a special session to consider placing an advisory vote on the May ballot. The session came to a hasty end, however, after County Clerk Robin Church said Oregon statutes won’t allow it.
The deadline for filing was 5 p.m. Thursday. Church had received information that a new state election law requires cities and counties to give seven days’ notice before putting any issue on the ballot.The seven-day period is meant to give people a chance to challenge a ballot item.
Church said the Secretary of State’s office told told her the new rule applies to all cities and counties. Friday, however, the state office informed Church that the rule applies to cities, but not to counties.
By that time the county board had decided to hold off till November on placing the advisory vote on the ballot. Board Chair Mark Davidson said that the Friday decision will stand.
“We will hold public hearings and then decide,” he said.
Horizon Wind Energy has applied to the state Energy Facility Siting Council for permission to build a 300-megawatt wind farm near Union. The proposal has stirred much local controversy.
Opponents have concerns over scenic impacts, possible property devaluation, wildlife and environmental issues and more.
Supporters say the project should go forward because it will create jobs and economic development while supporting sustainable energy.
The Energy Facility Siting Council and not the county is the approving authority. However, many local residents have said the county should take a formal position on whether the project should be built.
During the board’s regular session Wednesday, a citizen suggested that the county poll the public via an advisory vote, just as it did a couple of years ago when it was contemplating purchase of the Mount Emily Recreation Area.
Though it would not be binding, the vote could help the board take a formal position on whether the project should be built.
The board thought the idea had merit, and convened the special session Thursday to vote on it. A standing-room-only crowd showed up, only to learn that the county couldn’t immediately move forward.
But Davidson told those attending that the idea is still alive.
“We’ll develop a ballot title and submit it if we choose in November,” he said. The board did not take public testimony.
After the meeting, Davidson said the board is considering the advisory vote because of the high level of public interest.
“We continue to get a great deal of opinion from people wanting us to take a position,” he said. “We thought that a vote would give us an accurate view of what the electorate wants.”
Davidson said today there is still some conflicting information coming out of the Secretary of State’s office and that some local people believe the county could go ahead with the vote in May.
He said he is seeking a statement from the office explaining how the error was made and what the county’s options are.