The public hearing for a conditional-use zoning permit filed by Competitive Power Ventures in March will resume this week. The Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission will begin deliberation regarding the proposed wind project at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Ellis County Fairgrounds Gold Building.
The commission has two other conditional-use permit applications to discuss before moving on to the much-debated topic. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Ellis County Environmental Office, 601 Main, and will reconvene at the fairgrounds at 9 p.m. for wind farm discussion.
These arrangements were made to ensure that there will be adequate space for those interested in the commission’s deliberation pertaining to the proposed wind project, said Ellis County Zoning Administrator Dale Wing.
“We have a feeling that we’re going to need the extra room again,” Wing said.
While the public comment portion of the hearing was concluded on May 23, written documentation can be mailed to the commissioners until Wednesday’s continuation.
Planning and zoning commissioners will begin discussion regarding the proposal, and might or might not make their decision, Wing said.
While the main purpose of the planning commission is to ensure that the application was submitted according to county guidelines, it has the option of denying a request even if the paperwork was completed correctly, he said.
“They’re supposed to act in the best interest of the county,” Wing said. “If they don’t think that’s in the best interest of the county, they should deny the application, or make that recommendation to the governing body.”
However, no matter what the planning and zoning commissioners decide, the final say rests with Ellis County Commissioners, said Dennis Davidson of Russell, who is serving as Ellis County counselor for the application pertaining to the potential wind farm development.
“The joint planning commission’s decision is simply a recommendation to county commissioners,” Davidson said.
“Ultimately, the county must decide about the application – whether it’s to be granted, denied or granted with conditions.”
Unless a protest petition is filed, the Ellis County Commission can accept or overturn the planning commission’s recommendation with a simple two-third majority vote, Davidson said.
However, if protest petitions for 20 percent of landowners within 1,000 feet of the application area originally specified in the conditional-use permit application are filed with the Ellis County clerk within 14 days after the hearing’s conclusion, the application only can be accepted by a unanimous vote, according to Ellis County zoning regulations.
In accordance with these regulations, Ellis County Commissioners have to wait 14 days after the planning commission’s recommendation is made to take action, Davidson said.
According to an amendment to Ellis County zoning regulations, if planning commissioners fail to make a recommendation, it will be deemed as a recommendation of disapproval.
The interpretation for this guideline is that planning commissioners have the legal right to conclude the hearing without making a decision, Davidson said.
While Davidson said he does not expect this to happen, it is too early to know what to expect Wednesday, he said.
“It is too early to tell,” he said. “They have some deliberating to do, and they may or may not be able to make up their minds Wednesday night.”
By Kaley Lyon
4 June 2007