Growth committee hears wind energy concerns

In its first meeting of 2013, the Local Growth Management Committee set up its leadership and its goals for the next few months.

The group, created to deal with community growth issues resulting from the change of mission at Cannon Air Force Base, took 90 minutes to span various topics.

The meeting was chaired by Portales Mayor Sharon King, who was voted to the position left vacant when former chairman Caleb Chandler's term expired with the Curry County Commission. Clovis City Commissioner Sandra Taylor-Sawyer was voted in as vice chair.

The committee has many task areas for joint land use, said planner Jason Epley of North Carolina-based Benchmark CMR.

Proposals include a plan review with public outreach, identification of financial resources available and mission critical areas for the base, a process to locate and review tall structures that may interfere with the base's mission and a conceptual land use plan map.

Epley said future local meetings will take place Feb. 26-27 and over the following three months, with a desired goal to sit with landowners and stakeholders around the base.

"We don't want to develop something in a vacuum that's of no use to you locally," Epley said.

Curry County Commissioner Frank Blackburn said a look around the room and the committee membership concerned him. He saw numerous members who were stakeholders with the base, but not as many landowners.

"We should enhance the value of property rights," Blackburn said.

Taylor-Sawyer and King did note that representatives from Roosevelt County were landowners near the base.

Previous joint land use study periods created recommendations that were unpopular with residents, and Curry County Commissioner Wendell Bostwick said more conflicts could come if efforts to place wind turbines near the base are slowed or halted over Department of Defense concerns.

"Renewable energy is going to be one of your biggest challenges," Bostwick told Epley. "Private property rights and how to protect them (are key). I hope you'll have some answers for us."

The closing date of the tasks is June 15, though extensions could be filed with the Office of Economic Adjustment, which funds the joint land use studies and the LGMC.

In other business at the meeting:

  • Members spoke with Col. David C. Piech, commander of the 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group, regarding a meeting set for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the CAFB theater.

The meeting is for 27th Special Operations Wing leadership at Cannon and area landowners with an interest in wind turbine development. Charles Bennett of Roosevelt County told Piech he's received information that people are coming to the meeting from as far away as Clayton, and given security and seating concerns on base it might be good will to move the meeting to a more public place.

Bostwick said the meeting was set up at the time and place due to a tight schedule for Cannon command. Piech said he would take Bennett's advice to his superiors, but noted that people who call the Roosevelt or Curry County offices and give their name and contact info will be on a pre-screened list and will need to only show their ID at the gate instead of going through the base visitation process.

  • Kathy Elliott of Elliott Marketing spoke with the committee about its website at clovisportalescafb.com.

"We wanted to make sure we were targeting the goal you have in mind," Elliott said about the site redesign her business was handling, "and that you are all like-minded in the goal."

Elliott said the site has plenty of information, but was heavy on text and would fail to interest many people outside of the committee. Taylor-Sawyer said the site should be approached as a chance to showcase what the area holds.

Portales City Councilor Keith Thomas said the information should also appeal to private sector citizens and businesses considering relocation to the area.

  • The next meeting is set for 9 a.m. March 20 in Portales.

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