Amendments to the original development plan for Hays Wind LLC’s proposed project southwest of Hays were approved Wednesday by the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission.
Planning commission members voted 6-1 that changes to the development plan were not significant enough to warrant a public hearing. They also voted 6-1 to approve the revised development plan.
In July, the commission discussed whether minor changes had been made to the project, but County Counselor Dennis Davidson provided more guidance Wednesday.
“You should determine if the changes requested are so significant that the public interest will only be protected if you hold a public hearing,” Davidson said.
Things to consider, he said, were road ingress and egress and the impact of noise levels and shadow flicker.
Fifteen turbines were relocated as the result of a mediated settlement between the county and 21 plaintiffs in the project area. Other turbines have been relocated as the result of engineering studies.
The total number of turbines has been reduced from 100 to 82, but only 81 were included in the revised development plan. Hays Wind Project Manager Jason Du Terroil said Wednesday he had removed one turbine proposed near Mount Pleasant Road and Yocemento Avenue.
“I knew there was some consternation over its placement,” Du Terroil said. “We could probably find another location for that. It seemed to be the more logical course of action.”
The planning commission had no definition of what constituted significant changes in the project, but many had a common guideline.
“As long as they comply with the setbacks, there’s your standards,” planning commissioner Gary Luea said.
In addition to setbacks prescribed in the county’s zoning regulations, turbines had to be set back 2,000 feet from non-participating homes as a result of the mediated settlement.
However, planning commissioner Keith Campbell said he might take into account the distance from the original to revised locations of turbines.
“It’s a difficult task to determine significant changes partly because there are not standards that are provided to use in our judgment,” Campbell said.
Campbell was the only one to vote against both decisions. Chairman Bill Poland was absent, and newly appointed member Luanne Kramer recused herself from discussion.
The only way to review the planning commission’s decision is by appeal, according to Davidson. Landowners have 15 days to appeal the decision with the zoning office. An appeal would be ruled on by the Ellis County Commission.
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