This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
SPANISH FORK - A slow-moving project to create Utah's first wind farm could grind to a halt this spring.
A group of residents unimpressed with the idea of 300-foot-high turbines whirling overhead at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon will ask the City Council next week for a six-month moratorium on the project.
James Rees hosted a group of 50 worried neighbors at his home this week to inform Spanish Fork Mayor Joe Thomas of visual and financial concerns.
"I don't think anyone understood how colossal these things would be until the [test] tower went up," Rees said. "These things will be towering and obstructing our view."
Rees predicts property values will plummet and sound issues will surface if the turbines are erected. He and fellow residents passed out 400 fliers last weekend urging support for the proposed moratorium.
"Their concerns are valid; these are some large windmills," Thomas said. "These guys have done a lot of research, and I think they know far more than the City Council."
If approved - the council has the topic on its agenda for Tuesday - the moratorium will be the latest setback to Wasatch Wind, the Heber City-based wind-farm developer undertaking the project.
The company plans to erect up to seven turbines at the high-wind industrial site and sell the power generated to PacifiCorp. But already, the project's first phase, which includes construction of an initial turbine, has been delayed from this spring until late 2006 or early 2007. Wasatch Wind CEO Tracy Livingston said contracts, slow bureaucratic processes and extensive required studies have pushed back the timeline.
"I've never done something so difficult in my life," Livingston said.
The resident resistance won't speed up that process.
Livingston said responses have been predominantly positive since the wind farm was proposed, so this week's development caught him off guard.
"We did everything in our power possible to inform everyone of the issues," he said, adding they sent roughly 3,000 letters to people who live within a mile of the proposed project. "We have done nothing in any of our work to hide the size of these turbines."
Livingston said his company has spent more than $300,000 on the project, and wonders how he will recoup that investment if the city repeals the zoning. He added that he plans to announce next month a Fortune 500 investor who is committed to the wind farm project.
Resident Karl Warnick ultimately favors the idea of wind power, but asserts the city land-use ordinance passed for the development lacks important details.
Most glaring, he said, is the setback distance of only 500 feet to residential zones, a distance shorter than he could find nationwide for similar projects.
"I want to have an ordinance that really does this right," Warnick said. "The moratorium is to step back and make sure that happens."