The heated debate concerning a potential wind farm wafted into Ellis County Commission chambers Monday morning, as resident John Schmeidler presented concerns regarding county procedures.
“In going through the town hall meeting that we had last week, as well as talking to some of the administrators, it seems to me there are several procedural problems that need to be addressed,” Schmeidler said.
“Since ultimately this is going to end up on your plate to decide, and perhaps even to the district court to decide, there are some things I’d like to bring to your attention.”
He said public notices only were distributed to individuals residing within 1,000 feet of the project area.
“We’re talking about a huge project, probably the biggest project that’s ever been proposed in Ellis County,” he said. “In my opinion, if this were to go to district court, and we only notified people within 1,000 feet, that is not including all the people who are going to be affected by this project.”
The district court might find that to be inadequate due process, said Schmeidler, who lives at 2169 Locust Grove, about 4 miles north of Catharine.
Schmeidler asked commissioners to extend the notification area to at least a 5-mile radius around the project site southwest of Hays.
Another concern he presented was that the county has no official recording of the public hearing.
Furthermore, according to the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission Procedural Guide, everyone at a public hearing should be informed of their right to submit signed protest petitions.
“Needless to say – we were all there – nobody was informed of that right,” Schmeidler said. “Nor was it explained what the protest petition consisted of.”
If at least 20 percent of the notification area endorses the document, which must be filed in the office of the county clerk, the application shall not pass except by a three-quarter majority vote of commissioners.
Protest petitions must be filed within 14 days after the public hearing’s conclusion and are available in the office of the zoning administrator.
Schmeidler also expressed concern that only eight of the nine commission positions currently are filled. However, according to KSA 19-2962, the board of zoning appeals shall have a minimum of five and a maximum of nine members.
He also asked for legal clarification on KSA 79-201, which states that property used to generate renewable energy shall be exempt from taxation.
“I think we need to ask our county appraiser to do a fiscal analysis of what impact this project is going to have on Ellis County,” Schmeidler said. “We’ve got $400,000 homes out there. It’s inconceivable that this commission would not believe that would not decrease the value of those properties.”
The application process for a conditional use zoning permit also was discussed. Schmeidler was not sure the applications had been signed appropriately by property owners, because Competitive Power Ventures had authorized certain documents.
CPV project manager Krista Gordon was on hand to address the concern. Landowners ratified easement agreements that authorized the company to seek necessary permits, thus enabling the company to sign the documents, Gordon said.
“That substantiated the permission needed,” she said.
“It made us the authorization.”
Those easements are recorded with the county, she said.
The consensus among commissioners was to have Ellis County Counselor Bill Jeter investigate the procedural issues and visit with Schmeidler. Jeter will report back at a later date.
“This is a large project, and we need time to expand on all of this,” chairman Vernon Berens said.
In other business:
“¢ Public Works Administrator Mike Graf presented cost estimates to replace a fuel truck that was wrecked this winter. Commissioners agreed that purchasing a used vehicle would be best, and urged Graf to continue the process.
“¢ Court Services Clerk Phil Fielder and Judge Ed Bouker discussed the INK contract, which will provide access to district court information online. Documents can be viewed for the cost of $1, with 25 cents going to the county.
“¢ Bouker also said there are more than six old computers in storage that need to be sold. Commissioners encouraged him to begin collecting sealed bids.
Reporter Kaley Lyon can be reached at (785) 628-1081, Ext. 138, or by e-mail at
Zoning hearing rescheduled
What: Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing
When: 7 p.m. May 23.
Where: Schenk Building, Ellis County Fairgrounds
“¢ The Ellis County Joint Planning Commission Procedural Guide is available online at www.ellisco.net.
By Kaley Lyon
Hays Daily News
2 April 2007
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