The Ellis County Clerk’s office was a full house late Wednesday morning as about 15 Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition members gathered to submit petitions protesting the proposed Ellis County windfarm development.
Wednesday at 5 p.m. was the deadline for people who own land within 1,000 feet of the affected area to file a formal protest petition.
These petitions object to the recommendation of approval Ellis County Planning and Zoning commissioners made to the county commission June 6 regarding a conditional-use permit application filed by Competitive Power Ventures.
“I’m just glad the petitions are in place,” said ECEAC member Keith Pfannenstiel.
The protest petition is a form of public opposition provided for in Ellis County’s adopted zoning regulations. If owners of 20 percent of the land within 1,000 feet of land under easement for the projects endorsed a petition, the application for a conditional-use zoning permit cannot be approved – except by a unanimous vote of the Ellis County Commission.
If the 20-percent requirement is not met, the request can be approved, or denied, by a simple majority vote.
Group members are optimistic these petitions will produce the result they’re hoping for. Pfannenstiel estimated that signatures have been collected for about 65 percent of the protest area.
The individuals who clustered around the clerk’s front desk Wednesday morning submitted almost 40 petitions, which represent about 56 landowners who own 29 parcels of land, he said.
While the majority of these endorsements were obtained locally, others were mailed in from individuals who own land in the area but live out of state, Pfannenstiel said.
Pfannenstiel said he was pleased with the petition turnout.
“It kind of sends what the people in the area want,” he said. “They’ve been trying to tell people that there is going to be property value lost, there are health issues. This is just kind of an indication that they did their homework.”
Door-to-door solicitation was minimal. Many landowners eligible to sign approached the group on their own, Pfannenstiel said.
Another petition requesting commissioners to place a moratorium on development also is expected to be filed with the county clerk Monday, he said.
The group began collecting protest petitions in March, but had to start over after it was determined at the May 23 Ellis County Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing that signatures had to be notarized, ECEAC co-chairman Tim Davis said.
“Actually, the first time around we had more than we do now,” Davis said.
Davis and Pfannenstiel estimated an additional 4 or 5 miles of land was included in the first petitions they collected.
The task now falls to County Clerk Alberta Klaus, who will verify landowners and determine whether the 20 percent goal was achieved.
Once calculated, the results will be passed to county commissioners. Klaus said she does not expect to have the answers this week, but the petition will be discussed at an upcoming county commission meeting.
Klaus also said she had not expected such a crowd in her office Wednesday.
“It’s an important issue, so I guess I could have expected it,” Klaus said.
By Kaley Lyon
20 June 2007
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