Barton County Commissioners delayed a decision Monday on zoning for non-commercial wind turbines until the state’s secretary of Wildlife and Parks could speak to them.
No resolution was adopted, according to Barton County Clerk Donna Zimmerman.
Instead, Secretary Mike Hayden was tentatively planning on meeting with the group April 2 to discuss the building of wind turbines near Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area.
Tabling action until he could appear was a “very encouraging sign,” Hayden said. He plans to talk to the five-member commission about the investment the state has already made at the bottoms – more than $15 million since 1990 – as well as the future investment planning to be made in the form of a $3 million visitors’ center.
The commission had received a letter from Hayden asking they wait until he can make a presentation before voting on a zoning commission recommendation to create a one-mile “no-build” buffer zone around Cheyenne Bottoms. Outside of that zone would be a 2- to 3-mile conditional use zone, which would require a landowner to get county approval before erecting a turbine. The recommendation only applies to residential-scale turbines, not large wind farms.
“We’ll talk to them about the economics of tourism – recreation-based and eco-based tourism,” Hayden said of his planned meeting. He also plans to discuss the fact that the bottoms and nearby Quivira National Wildlife Refuge are also considered part of a National Scenic Byway, a designation given to stretches of highway with landscapes, and what it holds for the future.
“This is a very encouraging sign; at least they are open-minded and want to talk about it more,” Hayden said. It will be a thoughtful process, he said, and a process he has gone through before.
“We are not opposed to wind or renewable energy,” Hayden said. “It’s a great thing.”
But like a lot of things, he said, “It’s very important where they are located, and we don’t want it located where it would negatively impact other economic opportunities.”
By Kathy Hanks
The Hutchinson News
13 March 2007
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