Discussion of a waiver to reduce the amount of time Hays Wind LLC must wait before reapplying for a conditional-use permit was limited at Wednesday’s Joint Planning Commission meeting.
As per the Ellis County Commission’s request, the planning commission discussed whether to make a recommendation regarding the waiver requested to reduce the one-year moratorium required by zoning regulations.
The consensus, however, was the advisory zoning commission does not have the authority to make such a recommendation to the governing body.
“It’s in our regulations that somebody can apply for a waiver. … After that, that’s the commissioners’ decision,” Planning Commissioner Lance Russell said. “We don’t have anything to do with it. We don’t have that authority.”
Several times throughout the meeting, Ellis County Commissioner Perry Henman approached the stand. Henman, who suggested the zoning board discuss the issue during the county’s May 5 meeting, explained his concern of disrupting the board’s process of reviewing zoning regulations.
“My point to my fellow commissioners was that you guys are going through this, trying to get recommendations and compromise on the rules,” Henman said. “You’re doing all this work and will be having a public hearing fairly soon on this. Why do we want to start in the middle of this?”
The Joint Planning Commission has spent the past several months taking suggestions from the public and working to potentially revise county zoning regulations.
Many of the suggestions have pertained to wind energy, and the zoning commissioners are in the process of revising regulations pertaining to the topic.
“Do you want us to make a recommendation on a waiver, which we don’t have the authority to do, or do you just want to wait until we get through the wind regulations, because this was in reference to a wind project?” Chairman Gene Bittel asked Henman.
“That was sort of basically my point,” Henman replied. “You’re doing all this work, going through all these wind regulations, you’re going through this process now. My point wasn’t to you guys, it was to my fellow commissioners.”
Planning commissioners also pointed out that, while they have suggestions and have begun the process, they do not know how long it will take.
Bittel also pointed out that, while the new wind regulations have not been officially adopted, enough discussion has taken place that commissioners are aware of potential changes.
“Here’s how I see it, Perry,” Bittel said. “This waiver was in reference to wind. You know what we have come up in reference to wind right now. So you know what our intentions are. But we have no authority on a waiver anyway.”
“But the process is still going on,” Henman said. “You’ll have a public hearing on it.”
“That has nothing to do with the waiver,” Bittel replied. “Absolutely nothing to do with the waiver.”
“I agree,” Henman replied. “I’m just saying, why do a waiver until you guys have finished your rules and regs?”
“Say you grant the waiver, and we get a permit next month,” Bittel said. “With the existing wind regulations the way they’re written, you know our intentions and you can apply those to the permit at your level. We don’t have to wait three months.”
The argument continued for a few more minutes, and the conversation ended with planning commissioner Dick Klaus soliciting input from the other county commissioner present, Dennis Pfannenstiel.
“I don’t think it’s your position to vote in favor or against it,” Pfannenstiel said of the moratorium. “That’s not your decision.”
* * *
In other business, planning commissioners continued to revise wind energy regulations suggested by county residents on a point-by-point basis.
* By a majority vote, commissioners voted to adopt for further consideration noise regulations for wind turbines that are similar to Riley County’s regulations.
Under this provision, a-weighted decibels should not exceed 65 decibels, and c-weighted decibels of a lower frequency should not exceed 50 decibels.
These measurements cannot be exceeded when measured from any residence, school, hospital, church, place of employment or public library.
* Regarding natural springs and public water sources, commissioners agreed it should be the developer’s responsibility to follow local and state guidelines already established.
By Kaley Lyon
29 May 2008
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