City council takes stance on windmills viewshed issue

Milton-Freewater Councilman Ed Chesnut took several viewshed photos, like this one looking south down Main Street from MacLoughlin High, and superimposed windmills onto them to get an idea of what they may look like from the city.<br><I>Illustration provided by Ed Chesnut

The city council doesn't want to see windmills surrounding Milton-Freewater.

Thursday morning, about six hours before a Umatilla County Planning Commission meeting to discuss windmills, the city council unanimously approved a resolution and letter to the commission declaring its "serious concern" with windmills going up in the viewshed along the Blue Mountains.

It asked the planning commission to come up with rules for where it places wind farms and power lines within the viewshed. It also asked the city be a contributing member to develop those rules, or be on the team if development takes place.

"I do think we'll have a foot in the door by asking for input on siting," said Councilman Ed Chesnut.

The city called a special meeting to put all this together so Thursday night Chesnut could represent the council at the planning commission meeting.

The council gave many reasons for taking the action, including comments it received from citizens, concern for being able to recruit businesses without what it called its "pristine and scenic view of the majestic Blue Mountains," and, most importantly, how a viewshed full of windmills would limit the city's ability to develop houses on the south hill.

"The city has invested millions of dollars in infrastructure development in order to facilitate and accommodate development in the area of the south hill which could possibly be for naught," the letter said.

Chesnut said the city targeted the south hill for development in an effort to "steer clear" of more valuable valley floor land, like orchard land.

"Now this comes along and potentially stagnates further development," Chesnut said. "That seems to be our best argument."

Councilman Brad Humbert agreed, saying taxpayers have made a huge investment in the south hill, and he doesn't want to see other taxpayer dollars go toward developing windmills that may keep that same hill from being developed.

"I think we should pass the resolution and be done with it," he said.

The council voted unanimously to do so.

Another factor that seemed to lead the council toward its decision was some extra work Chesnut has put into the windmill issue. Taking more hours than he said he cared to count, Chesnut took panoramic photos and photos from common views in town and superimposed windmills onto the hills to give people an idea of what it would look like.

"There's been all this discussion about a viewshed and no information on what it would look like," Chesnut said.

He built the photos to try to learn what it would look like.

"It's a real alternative to trying to be realistic and not altruistic," he said.

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