Plans are in the works for Iberdrola, the company heading the proposed Ellis County wind farm, to enter contract negotiations with landowners adjacent to the project area.
Project manager Krista Gordon said the contracts are not yet finalized, but arrangements are being made and landowners are being approached, she said.
“It’s designed to compensate anybody for any potential inconvenience caused by the project,” she said. “We understand that construction activity has the potential to be disruptive.”
Some landowners, however, say that these attempts to negotiate are too little, too late.
Though details are not final, these agreements likely would be in the form of residential electricity provision for people who live near the site and a one-time financial compensation for individuals who own land in the area but don’t reside there, she said.
“It’s just something we thought we should do to be a good corporate citizen and a good neighbor, because we recognize we are a great big neighbor,” Gordon said.
Gordon also said the agreements will not contain a “gag order” stipulation that would prevent landowners from voicing opposition.
“Right now, we don’t have anything in the agreement that prohibits anybody from speaking their mind about the project,” she said. “In other projects there have been those things … we don’t plan to do that now.”
“I’m an ardent supporter of First Amendment rights, so I believe in letting people say what they want about something,” Gordon said.
Keith Pfannenstiel, who lives on Mount Pleasant Road, said that he and his wife aren’t interested in these negotiations.
An Iberdrola representative has visited with them about the possibility of an agreement, but he does not know the specifics of the offer, he said.
He’s not just worried about his own interests – the bigger issue is the effect the project could have on the community and county as a whole, he said.
“A financial agreement between a few landowners is not going to affect the total impact of what it’s going to do to the community,” he said.
Pfannenstiel said his objections to the project are rooted in the origins of the issue – he’s upset with the way the whole operation has been handled, he said.
“This is a location issue, and they have turned this into a huge circus on wind energy,” Pfannenstiel said. “It’s made a lot of people look bad because they claim they’re against wind energy and not wanting to help the world. This issue has always been about it being right next to Hays and how many people and how many homes this is going to affect.”
Timing also is a key issue. Pfannenstiel said negotiation should have been attempted long ago. He also believes the offers recently made were a result of the protest petition that was circulating at the time, he said.
“I’m sure that’s the way the majority of people feel, especially people who have signed the protest petition,” Pfannenstiel said. “We all realize that if CPV were serious, they would have come a long time ago.”
It’s not uncommon for wind energy development companies to enter agreements with abutting landowners. In fact, some landowners near Montezuma’s Gray County Wind Farm have contracted to receive financial reimbursement.
One of these landowners in Shannon Evans, who lives less than 2,000 feet away from the turbines, he said.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a win-win situation for everyone,” Evans said. “I do not understand why there would be opposition.”
Landowners had the option of receiving an annual sum or collecting a one-time payment, he said.
In return, he agreed not to construct any large structures on his property that could obstruct the wind, he said.
Opposition to that project was minimal –¬the company approached these landowners months before construction began and negotiated a financial agreement that would compensate for “perceived hassles and problems,” Evans said.
This payment was not necessarily a reaction to local concerns, rather, the project’s parent company, FPL Energy, had made an effort to combat concerns they’d had in other areas, he said.
The company also had “done their homework” – surrounding landowners were provided with detailed information, such as decibel levels and how many seconds each day a shadow would stretch across their property, Evans said.
By Kaley Lyon
13 July 2007
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