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County declares moratorium on wind farms

Pratt County Commissioners Charles Rinke, Dwight Adams and Joe Reynolds unanimously passed a motion declaring a moratorium on the development of wind farms in Pratt County for the next four months. Commissioners met with their recently hired zoning attorney, Patrick Hughes, Monday to decide how to proceed with the implementation of countywide zoning.

The commissioners have recently decided it is appropriate to undertake the adoption of zoning regulations in the unincorporated portions of Pratt County. The moratorium on wind energy development is being put in place, because the development of land for utility scale wind energy production has been proposed in Pratt County, with construction potentially beginning prior to the time in which zoning regulations will, even with all reasonable diligence, be developed, adopted and put in place.

The commissioners’ motion claims the development of land for utility scale wind energy production, prior to the adoption of zoning regulations, will threaten the utility and integrity of subsequently adopted zoning regulations, and creates risk of injury to public welfare.

The commissioners’ power to promote the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of this community is sufficient to support a moratorium on the development of wind farm energy production land in Pratt County, pending the adoption of zoning regulations.

Although the commissioners have previously executed an agreement purporting to limit the commission from the exercise of its police powers, with respect to regulation of wind energy production, – such agreement is unenforceable, according to Hughes.

Commissioners are declaring, it shall be unlawful for any person or entity, to erect or cause the erection of, any wind turbine for the commercial production of electricity for sale, or for use off of the parcel on which such turbine is located, or to undertake excavations for the erection of such turbines for a period of four months from the adoption of this resolution, except that this prohibition shall be of no further force and effect, upon the adoption of comprehensive zoning regulations by the commission.

All owners of any tract of land may apply to the commissioners for the suspension of the prohibitions of this resolution. Any violation of this regulation shall be enforceable by an action for abatement. No activity undertaken in violation of this resolution, shall give rise to a right to continue any land use, in which or in part, as a non-conforming use following the adoption of zoning regulations by the commission.

The commission hereby creates a planning commission for the county to consist of five members, with each member to be appointed by the commissioners and to serve a term of three years, or until such member’s replacement is appointed or such member is removed or resigns. The county commissioners may remove any member of the planning commission, by the appointment of a replacement member.

The planning commission shall meet as needed to diligently develop zoning regulations for the unincorporated area of Pratt County. The Planning Commission shall recommend to the County Commissioners, the nature and number of zones or districts which it deems necessary, the boundaries of the same, and appropriate regulations or restrictions to be enforced therein. Such zoning regulations shall specifically address the conditions, if any, under which commercial wind energy facilities should be permitted and application, location, setback, and development standards, to govern such developments.

The Planning Commission shall promptly inform the board in the event it determines that any moratorium on development or extension of a moratorium on development, is advisable pending the adoption of zoning regulations.