As expected, Wednesday night’s public hearing was well-attended – about 300 people gathered at the Ellis County Fairgrounds Schenk building for round two of the Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission’s public hearing on behalf of a proposed wind project now owned by Iberdrola Renewable Energies USA.
Tensions were high as 36 individuals addressed the board, each receiving applause from only a portion of the audience.
The majority of those who spoke before the commission presented concerns.
About 20 of the speakers spoke in opposition, and about 10 spoke in favor.
The commission heard pubic comments until 10 p.m., then closed the public comment portion of the hearing. However, a decision is not expected to be made until the June 6 public hearing continuation.
A variety of concerns were presented to the planning and zoning commission, including low-frequency noise, property values, wildlife and local economics.
One speaker, A.J. Pfannenstiel, received a standing ovation from some at the conclusion of his speech. Pfannenstiel called on his grandson, who will be the sixth-generation area family farmer, to prove his point.
“I would like to say not in my backyard, not for any selfish reasons, but because of this young man right here,” Pfannenstiel said. “My grandson, who lives and plays in his backyard, which will be within 2,000 to 3,000 feet of a turbine.”
Pfannenstiel then recited a prayer he would say, if he could do so in a public meeting, he said.
“If we were allowed to pray, we would bow our heads and say, “˜Heavenly Father, grant the people on this board the courage to believe the adverse statements about the wind farms, the lives it will affect and the strength to do the right thing,’ “ he said.
Doug Ewert also spoke with emotion. Ewert is owner of ETek Group Inc., and expressed concern at the concept of placing tall structures so close to residential homes.
“I’m a company owner, I build communication towers,” Ewert said in a voice thick with emotion. “I know what these things are about. I know that they’re dangerous.”
Last winter’s ice storm ripped down several communication towers in northwest Kansas, and left Ewert picking up debris from communication equipment scattered 2 miles away, he said.
“In not one location that I’ve ever put a (400-foot-tall) tower would I put a tower next to a residential community,” Ewert said. “It’s amazing that this is even being evaluated for that area because of the community that’s there. That community should be protected by Ellis County.
“Everybody knows what kind of weather we have here,” he said. “It’s very dangerous – very dangerous structures to have close to a residential home.”
Not everyone who voiced an opinion Wednesday was against the proposed development. Martha McClelland, who resides on Lawrence Drive, encouraged planning and zoning commissioners to focus on the positives.
“I ask you to keep in mind that wind has been used for centuries as a source of energy,” McClelland said. “It has been used to pump water for cattle, grind grain, power wind chargers … and now it has the potential to provide electricity for homeowners throughout this region.”
“Often we hear the statement “˜not in my back yard’ when controversy surrounds any new project,” she said. “However, consider the situation. If development of wind energy were to occur in this county it will obviously be in somebody’s backyard.”
The wind development would reduce fossil fuel dependency, regardless of where the produced energy would be sold, she said.
“The complex is all about renewable energy,” McClelland said. “Why not allow Ellis County to be first in western Kansas to have such an enterprise? Clean, renewable energy is one way we can contribute to the well-being of our nation.”
Helen Miles called on the commission to make the best decision, and said she favors a moratorium on the project.
“I am in complete agreement with those that are wishing for a moratorium on this, or to urge the zoning commission to take their time and make a good decision based on the health, safety and welfare of its citizens,” Miles said.
Reporter Kaley Lyon can be reached at (785) 628-1081 Ext. 138, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Upcoming wind talks
The planning and zoning commission’s decision regarding the proposed wind project will be recommended to the Ellis County Commission.
The hearing will resume at 7 p.m. June 6 at the Ellis County Environmental Office, located at 601 Main.
However, if space needs present a problem, the commission will rearrange as necessary, said Dennis Davidson, the Russell attorney who is advising the county in the wind farm matter.
“But if it comes to pass that there is not adequate room for all those who want to attend the hearing, the planning commission will endeavor to move the hearing to a location that will accommodate everybody,” Davidson said. “If that doesn’t happen because they are not able to get accommodations, they will continue the hearing once again to a different date.”
There will be two other hearings June 6, which will be conducted before deliberation will begin regarding this particular application, said planning and zoning commission vice-chairwoman Barb Anderson, who is acting as chair for this application.
Davidson also discussed procedures for protest petitions at Wednesday’s public hearing. Individuals who own real estate within 1,000 feet of the project area must have petitions filed with the Ellis County clerk within 14 days after the planning and zoning commission makes its decision, Davidson said.
Written documentation can be submitted by mail to the Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission until June 6. Documents should be sent to the Ellis County Environmental Office, 601 Main, Ste. C, Hays, KS 67601.
By Kaley Lyon
Hays Daily News
23 May 2007
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