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County gets wind appeal this time around

Another appeal has been filed regarding the development plan for a much-contested wind farm southwest of Hays, and this one will come before the Ellis County Commission later this month.

The appeal was submitted by Wichita attorney Patrick Hughes on behalf of almost 60 Ellis County residents.

“The appeal requires the county commission to weigh in on the questions that were raised to the planning commission,” Hughes said, referring to the June 24 meeting of the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission.

At that meeting, the planning commission recommended approval of a conditional use permit, and also approved the project’s development plan by a majority vote.

According to the county’s legal process, the joint planning commission has the authority to grant or deny a development plan, unless its decision is appealed to the county commission, which has been done, said Dennis Davidson, county counselor in matters pertaining to the proposed wind farm.

“Under the regulations, it was the planning commission’s responsibility to either approve or not approve that plan,” Davidson said. “And they approved it that night.”

County commissioners will hear the appeal in a hearing slated for 8:45 a.m. on June 28, he said.

Consideration of the conditional use permit is scheduled to follow at 10 a.m.

Davidson said there is no requirement for publication notice for the appeal, but written notice has been sent to interested parties and individuals in the proposed project area.

The county commission could choose to reject the development plan and agree with the appeal made, or accept the development plan and affirm the planning commission’s decision, he said.

The appeal states that the development plan is incomplete and did not meet requirements under the Ellis County zoning regulations.

The plan failed to show location and orientation of the proposed operations and maintenance building, and points of ingress and egress to the facility, the appeal claims.

The appeal also states, among other items, that the plan places turbines too close to existing utilities and easements, and also does not comply with height restrictions specified in the regulations.

Another issue that has been questioned is the fact that the company chose to pull back lot lines for the application – the appeal says these lots do not conform to zoning regulations.

Final authority, however, now rests with the county commission – after that, any action taken will be in district court, Hughes said.

Either side will have 30 days after a decision is made to file a law suit, pertaining to either the conditional use permit decision or the development plan decision, he said.

“It is after the county commission makes that determination that either side is able to then appeal to district court,” he said. “That would then be the next stage beyond the county commission.”

By Kaley Lyon

Hays Daily News

20 July 2008