The clock continues to tick for protesters of the proposed Ellis County wind project as no additional time was granted to file a protest petition.
John Schmeidler appeared before the Ellis County Commission on Monday morning, requesting an additional two weeks to file the protest petition, citing technical concerns.
“The reason I ask for it is because we had already begun collecting signatures at the time of the second public hearing,” Schmeidler said. “At that time, Mr. Davidson said they would have to be acknowledged.”
Schmeidler said the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission procedural guide does not mention the need to have the protest signatures notarized.
“The form itself did not have place for a notary stamp,” Schmeidler said, acknowledging it makes sense to have the signatures notarized. The procedural guide, however, does not make that stipulation.
“I don’t think there’s any dispute that Article 32 of the zoning regulations requires that the protest be signed by the landowner and acknowledged by a notary public,” said Russell attorney Dennis R. Davidson, who is acting as county counsel for the wind-farm application.
Commissioner Perry Henman said he thinks the request to extend the time until the protesters could get the finalized list from a certified abstractor was reasonable.
Davidson suggested the commission adopt a “wait-and-see” attitude regarding possible protest petitions.
“I think maybe you’re getting a little bit ahead of yourself talking about extension and time,” Davidson said.
Henman asked about the purpose of protesting the recommendation of the Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission.
“Wouldn’t it make more sense for people to protest until we make a decision they don’t like?” Henman said. “Because they are just protesting a recommendation, not a decision. I thought this was putting the cart in front of the horse a little bit.”
Davidson said the protest petition, if landowners from at least 20 percent of the area within 1,000 feet sign the petition, would mean the conditional-use permit would need to be approved via a unanimous vote by the Ellis County Commission.
“The only people that would protest are those that would like to make it more difficult for this county commission to adopt that recommendation,” Davidson said. “Therefore, the protest requiring unanimous vote might help accomplish that goal – if that’s their goal.”
Schmeidler requested clarification regarding who is eligible to protest, pointing out there is confusion regarding how the project area pertains to zoning regulations. Davidson said those eligible to sign a protest petition are landowners within 1,000 feet of the affected area.
“Those people have all received written notice of this application because they’re within 1,000 feet,” Davidson said. “So they all know who they are, and they have known since that notice was sent out.
“The list of those people has been at the zoning administrator’s office for weeks and weeks. I don’t think there is any question about who those potential protestors are – and their address is not a secret either.”
“All the things the law requires in terms of due process, I don’t see any lack of it,” Davidson said.
Schmeidler took an opposite stance.
“I don’t believe it has occurred,” said Schmeidler, adding he is concerned the county was using lists from the tax appraiser’s office, which doesn’t necessarily disclose landowners, he said.
He also asked if he could schedule speakers to address the commission in the next few weeks.
“I have two attorneys who would like to address the commission before you make a decision,” Schmeidler said.
Commission Chairman Vernon Berens said he does not want to rehash the public hearings.
“We heard both sides of it,” Berens said. “I’m not going to say how I’m going to vote, but I’ve heard enough.”
Schmeidler said the protest petition will be filed by 5 p.m. June 20.
By Karen Mikols
11 June 2007
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