The packed house and tense air at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Ellis County Joint Planning and Zoning Commission saw no serious surprises. In a unanimous vote, the commission recommended approval of a conditional-use permit for Hays Wind LLC to install three 60-meter meteorological instrument towers on separate sites southwest of Hays.
And there almost was no discussion against the move.
But the crowd of more than 40 people – and the nervousness apparent on many people in the room – indicated one thing: It’s been four months since a request for a conditional-use permit to erect a massive wind farm outside of Hays came up one vote shy of the unanimous approval it needed to pass the Ellis County Commission, but parties involved still are highly interested.
And the intense disagreements between pro-wind farm landowners and opposing neighbors about property rights, blinking lights, aesthetics, potentially dwindling property values and the existence of vibro-acoustic disease? That’s not going anywhere for awhile.
Discussion on the towers was limited. Krista Gordon, project manager of the wind farm proposal, provided a description of the sites where they will be erected.
“This study has already been done. Why are you re-doing it?” asked zoning commissioner Barbara Anderson.
Gordon said the towers will provide additional data and decrease the chance of error from earlier tests.
Iberdrola, the energy company that has proposed to build the Ellis County wind farm, already has studied the wind speed and direction with three other towers; the new towers, Gordon said, probably will be in place for a few years.
In addition to measuring wind speed and direction, the towers will be fitted with solar sensors.
One wind farm opponent, John Schmeidler, asked how long the towers would be in place. Gordon said probably at least a few years.
Another project opponent, J.P. Michaud, asked if the data collected would be open to the public.
“No,” Gordon said.
In addition to the applications for the towers, the zoning board discussed proposed changes to the county zoning regulations. The board has asked for public input to be delivered to the county planning and zoning office, 601 Main, Suite C, so the board can entertain suggestions.
Board members have requested any public input include the article of the zoning regulations, and suggested wording for alteration. Also, commissioners want proposals submitted far enough in advance that they will have time to do research and send material to all members of the board.
And because state statutes guide some zoning regulations, not all proposals will be viable.
“When we get done, we’ll probably have to get a legal opinion on everything and then go from there,” said commission chairman Gene Bittel.
The public input for the zoning regulations will last until the March meeting of the zoning commission; commissioners said they probably will set time aside each year for such input.
By Will Manly
9 January 2008
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