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New wind application is an end-run around zoning law

The new wind energy application by Iberdrola uses a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to delineate carefully selected sub-parcels of land within legal parcels for a Conditional Use Permit. The intent is to deny neighbors their rights to a protest petition, a right they have already successfully exercised under zoning law.

The stated intent of zoning is the protection of the property rights and quality of life of all residents. There is a statutory requirement in Kansas for inclusion of a protest petition clause in all county zoning regulations. It is implicit in zoning regulations that CUP applications apply to complete legal parcels, or the protest petition statute would be pointless. Those seeking to host turbines are now essentially claiming to be their own neighbors, and trying to deny adjacent landholders their legal status as neighbors. Is this not unscrupulous?

Nowhere in our zoning regulations does it say anything about protecting people’s right to profit from any development that might happen to come along, as Gene Bittel would have us believe. He expressed concern about passing wind energy regulations that might harm someone’s (or his) ability to profit from turbines. He fails to understand that the purpose of zoning is exactly the opposite – to protect existing real estate investments and quality of life from unsuitable developments that will detract from their value and harm innocent people.

It is clear from the folly of the last zoning board meeting that at least four, if not five, of the board members are dead set on gutting the ordinance submitted by concerned residents to regulate wind energy. They won’t take an oath of office (as required by law) or publicly disclose their conflicts of interest (as explicitly stated in the zoning regulations they themselves adopted) because they are all planning to profit from wind turbines however they possibly can. They have consistently represented their own families’ financial interests instead of the interests of the people of Ellis County. And they certainly don’t want to change the 1,000 ft. setback because that would spoil their plans to eliminate a protest petition by pulling turbines back just a bit more than 1,000 ft. from their property lines.

Iberdrola’s new application seeks to circumvent the spirit and intent of zoning law and will certainly be vulnerable to legal challenge in district court. If the County Commission grants them a waiver for early submission and then approves this application, they will be exposing the county to the same legal action that will target Iberdrola.

Posted by J.P. Michaud

ECEAC: Ellis County Environmental Awareness Coalition

24 April 2008