November 23, 2011

Commission attorney responds to Indeck’s legal position

By J.W. Keene, The Pratt Tribune, 22 November 2011By J.W. Keene, The Pratt Tribune, 22 November 2011

Pratt, Kan. – Pratt County’s recently hired attorney, Patrick Hughes, Adam Jones Law Firm P.A., Wichita, has answered the threat of a potential lawsuit from Indeck, the developer of a proposed wind farm in the area of the Pratt Municipal Airport.

Hughes wrote that the threats of legal claims are unconvincing, he said, “Indeck came to Pratt County, through its attorney (Gordon Stull), who was also serving as Pratt County counselor, and asked the Board of Pratt County Commissioners (Board) to promise to approve Indeck’s potential wind turbine project under any regulations the county might adopt in the future, whether or not the project complied with the standards of such regulations, so long as its application is complete. Indeck suggested several criteria that its project would meet, apparently to convince the Board that an exemption from any future regulation wouldn’t adversely affect the county. Pratt County retained counsel and signed an agreement.”

It later became clear that there were public health, safety and welfare concerns raised by Indeck’s project that the Board hadn’t been aware of and hadn’t considered, explained Hughes.

“For example, the Board had limited details about how the project might affect the Pratt airport and the impact of the wind turbines, Indeck was proposing on residents of rural Pratt County,” said Hughes in his letter. “These details weren’t disclosed by Indeck, when it proposed the agreement, it now says traps the Board and prevents it from addressing the public welfare concerns.

“To deal with these concerns in a reasoned way, taking community sentiment into account, the Board considered two options: developing business regulations for commercial wind energy operations in the county and adopting county-wide zoning with provisions dealing with commercial wind energy facilities,” continued Hughes. “The Board has decided to proceed with countywide zoning as the permanent solution, but in the meantime to preserve the status quo by imposing a limited moratorium.”

Hughes wrote, the Board is willing to consider a request for the suspension of the moratorium, but neither necessity, nor the advisability of suspending the moratorium for Indeck’s project, is apparent from Indeck’s recent letter to the Board.

“Unless Indeck intends to commence construction before the moratorium expires and the county rejects your request for a suspension of the moratorium, the moratorium will have no effect on Indeck,” said Hughes. “Thus, threats of litigation over any loss caused by the moratorium are premature and they are ill-founded.”

If Indeck wants to ask for a suspension of the moratorium, or ignore it, Hughes asked they answer a considerable number of unanswered questions relating to the proposed development.

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