Pratt, Kan. – It will take more time for the Pratt County Zoning Board (Board) to reach a consensus regarding regulations to be placed in effect for countywide zoning. There still are too many questions to which the Board has no answers. The Board has asked the Pratt County Commissioners to pass a resolution extending the length of the moratorium placed on the construction of commercial wind farms in Pratt County, to give them more time to consider various options.
Patrick Hughes, a Wichita attorney representing the Pratt County Commissioners, said an extension would be okay as long as the Board was moving forward in a way that was reasonable and prudent.
“At this point, we don’t have all the issues identified,” said Hughes. “What are the bits of information we need… what is it you care about… and what do you want to do about it?”
Hughes asked, “What is it we’re going to protect… what are we going to protect against… and what standards are appropriate?”
Two answers to Hughes’ questions came from Ed Petrosky: protect the safety of the airport and agricultural spraying. A lengthy discussion followed, led by Mark McVey representing the pilot’s association, with the Board not reaching any final decisions relating to actions to be taken. However, the Board did decide to invite the Pratt Municipal Airport Authority to the next meeting, along with owners of several private airports in Pratt County, to discuss various questions relating to tower heights in areas surrounding landing fields.
“What kind of footprint does a wind farm have,” asked Mark Fincham. “How does it effect agricultural spraying?”
“There are four existing radio towers south of Pratt which are 500-feet tall,” said Petrosky.
“The FAA only approves instrument landings within the approach path,” said McVey. “There were 11,000 operations at the airport last year – most are visual flight rules. There are 2-3,000 instrument approaches compared to 8-9,000 visual; approaches.“
With a 1,500-foot ceiling, visual flights cannot approach the airport from the north, or west, according to McVey. There are penalties for breaking the regulations and can be as serious as a pilot losing his license, or his life if he should happen to hit a tower.
“The county had no Knowledge of the number of towers to be built there (around the airport) until the pilots questioned it,” said Pratt County Commissioner Dwight Adams.
“Our concern is not with the Indek project,” said Hughes. “It is with the safety of pilots at the airport.”
The Board went on to discuss noise and strobe effects of turbines located near residences. The group came to the conclusion that one-mile seemed to be an agreeable setback for towers from residences.
Because of the many questions still unanswered, the Board decided to meet again at Fire Station No. 12, Wednesday, Dec. 7th, at 6:30 p.m.
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