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Zoning board reviews criteria

Pratt, Kan. – The recently established Pratt County Zoning Board (Board) will be reviewing proposed criteria for commercial wind energy projects during the 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 30, meeting to be held at Fire District No. 12 offices. The proposed criteria, resembling those enacted in Harper County, according to consultant Bickley Foster, will be reviewed, passed, or altered to meet the needs of Pratt County at the discretion of the Board and final adoption by the Pratt County Commission.

“The proposed criteria are not set in stone,” said Pratt County Zoning Administrator Tim Branscom. “They have not been approved at this point and can be changed.”

The Board is made up of nine members, which include those individuals who have leased property to wind farm developers, those that oppose the proposed location of a wind farm near the Pratt Municipal Airport, and those that apparently don’t have a dog in the hunt. The Board decided at their last meeting it might take more than one more meeting to finalize the entire zoning document for passage. They will make a decision about any needed future legislative meetings during the meeting to be held on the 30th.

With this mix of membership county commissioners hope that a fair and equitable criteria can be reached and adopted, according to Pratt County Commissioner Dwight Adams.

“We are not against commercial wind farms locating in the county, but they need to be regulated and there are issues relating to public safety which need to be addressed,” said Adams.

The proposed commercial wind farm criteria do not include, nor regulate, the installation of the smaller individual wind energy conversion systems designed for private use in an agricultural, or residential area, which will be regulated elsewhere in the zoning ordinance when, and if, it is adopted.

Commercial wind energy projects will require a “special use” permit, which does not authorize construction of the project until the applicant (developer) has obtained a power purchase agreement for the electricity to be generated. “Special use” permits shall not be transferred from one party to a different party without approval of the county commission. If approval is granted, the new “special use” holders shall be required to meet the same conditions as the original applicants.

The proposed criteria will spell out the requirements for obtaining a “special use” permit, what the commercial wind energy project development plan shall include, decommissioning requirements, restoration of an existing unit criteria if damaged, or destroyed, and abandonment of any one unit for a period of one-year.

The proposed criteria will deal with the responsibilities of the developers and others relating to construction and financial obligations of the developers including bond, escrow and surety agreements with the county.

Nothing in the financial agreement, or otherwise, shall impose any liability, or duty, whatsoever on Pratt County, or any of its agencies, including, but not limited to any liability for taxes, wages, or any other employee benefits for any person, or entity. Contractors, suppliers, or consultants, accepting and relying on documents, materials, and other information from the application, or “special use” folder, will do so on their own responsibility and at their own risk.