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Williamson sworn in; Council votes to join COPRA in legal action against Apex Wind Energy and Kingfisher Wind, LLC

Councilman Bobby Williamson was sworn in at the City Council meeting Monday, August 26.

By Robert Flippo                                                                                                                       editor@piedmontnewsonline.com

The Piedmont City Council convened Monday evening for their monthly meeting. With the induction of new Ward 2 Councilman Bobby Williamson and agenda items addressing the future of wind energy, the meeting promised to be exciting.

That promise was reflected in the presence of a large crowd that filled the seating and left citizens to stand in the back in order to watch the proceedings.

The evening began with the swearing in of Bobby Williamson. Mayor Valerie Thomerson administered the oath of office to the new councilman, who stood with his family to receive the oath.

“I’m honored to be here,” Williamson said in his closing remarks of the evening. “I love Piedmont and I hope my decisions reflect that.”

The biggest developments came at the end of the evening, when the Council addressed wind energy.

First, the council voted 3-2 to amend the city code which already banned the construction of industrial wind turbines within city limits to officially declare industrial wind energy conversion systems to be a nuisance.

Councilman Donnie Robinson raised objection to the amendment based on the fact it did not go before the planning commission. He noted that the city already has an ordinance against building wind turbines within the city limits, which had come at the suggestion of the planning commission.

“Why do we have a planning commission?” Robinson asked. “This is not an emergency, the planning commission has done their job. If they want to revisit this and bring it to the council I’m open to seeing it but under these circumstances I do not agree with it being an emergency.”

Next, the Council voted, again 3-2, to authorize the City of Piedmont to join the Central Oklahoma Property Rights Association (COPRA) in taking legal action against Apex Wind Energy and Kingfisher Wind, LLC in order to keep them from building wind turbines within a three mile radius of Piedmont’s city limits.

In the discussion preceding the vote, Councilman Robinson questioned the feasibility of such an undertaking.

“How are we going to defend something outside of our city limits?” Robinson asked.

City attorney Michael Segler answered that the city is given that authority by state statute. However that authority only extends to civil action, it does not include law enforcement.

After the meeting, Councilman Charles Coffman clarified further. “Under state law cities do have some recourse if they have a nuisance on the border,” Coffman said.

That is the reason the council first had to pass the amendment declaring industrial wind turbines to be a nuisance before they could authorize legal action. So, while it does seem counterintuitive that a city could enforce anything beyond its city limits, it is possible under the right circumstances.

Even with those assurances, Councilman Robinson had objections to taking legal action. His concern was that participating in legal action would divert money to a lawsuit that could have bend spent on  repairing roads and infrastructure. Nevertheless, the council approved the action.

For many of the citizens of Piedmont, the council’s decision will be considered a great success while many others might share Councilman Robinson’s concerns. That has been the divisive nature of the wind energy debate in Piedmont which has shaped the political landscape for over a year.

With this decision, like it or hate it, the Council hopes to be able to shift its focus onto other issues. According to Councilman Coffman, that focus will be on roads and city growth. As far as the roads, Coffman emphasized the need for a road crew and a road plan. He also said the city will be looking into getting grants to help with road projects.

In terms of city growth, Coffman said the Council will be looking into way to encourage businesses to come to town and to be more business friendly.

“The door right now is open for businesses to come to Piedmont,” Coffman said. “We need to get the word out on that.”

Other business the Council:

  •   Approved a resolution to amend the 2030 Comprehensive Plan to single family-3 zoning district as a district only compatible with the high density residential future land designation.
  •   Amended the ordinance allowing open display of items for sale to include hardware and plant nursery.
  •   Tabled the resolution to reduce the speed limit on westbound Washington Avenue east of Piedmont road from 45 miles per hour to 35 miles per hour so that the resolution will include both westbound and eastbound traffic.
  •   Received presentation from City Manager Jim Crosby regarding the need to redistrict the city’s wards, which will require public hearings before action can be taken.
  •  Held executive session to discuss potential litigations as well as police contracts.

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