CORPUS CHRISTI – The city of Sinton said in a recent court filing that the Sinton school district isn’t entitled to a court order allowing its hotly contested wind turbine project to move forward.
The filing responds to the school district’s lawsuit, which claimed city boards didn’t follow their own procedures and broke open government laws after the district requested variances to the city’s wind turbine ordinance.
The plan to build two 155-foot turbines on the high school campus for energy savings and education has led to heated public meetings and calls for the city manager and school superintendent to resign or be fired.
Supporters say the project, using $974,000 in federal grant money and $243,000 in district funds, would give students a rare opportunity to apply data directly from the turbines to math and science lessons, giving them a hands-on look at an emerging South Texas industry and adding a progressive touch to the city’s skyline.
Opponents say the turbines would be unsightly, saddle the district with unforeseen maintenance costs, hurt area property values and waste public money when the economy already suffers.
The lawsuit followed decisions by the Sinton Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of Adjustment to reject the district’s variance request.
The lawsuit asks a judge to void those decisions, saying the turbine ordinance doesn’t apply to the type of turbines in the project; the Board of Adjustment didn’t have authority to rule on the variance requests; city zoning laws don’t apply to school districts except in matters of health and safety; and the two boards broke state law when they met in closed sessions.
The city denied each of the claims. It said the Board of Adjustment ruling could be appealed only to a district court within 10 days, which the school district didn’t do.
As for the open meetings questions, first raised by the Caller-Times at the February meetings, the city said the Board of Adjustment was allowed to meet with its attorneys “any time, whether challenged by a newspaper reporter or not.”
The city’s court filing did not address the closed-door deliberation of the Planning and Zoning Commission at the same meeting. The commission came to an agreement in closed session to deny the variances before announcing the decision in public.
The city claims the school district acted in bad faith because it should have coordinated the project with the city earlier rather than waiting until January to request variances. The district’s wind turbine discussions began in 2009.
School Superintendent Steve VanMatre said local judges have recused themselves from the case and visiting Judge David Peeples of Bexar County will preside.
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