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County adopts countywide zoning plan  

Credit:  By J.W. Keene, The Pratt Tribune, www.pratttribune.com 10 May 2012 ~~

Pratt, Kan. – Pratt County Commissioners Dwight Adams, Charles Rink and Joe Reynolds unanimously adopted countywide zoning Monday, during their regular meeting. Prior to approving the proposed ordinance, commissioners listened to telephone comments from Erica Eckley of the Center for Agricultural Law, Iowa State University, concerning possible lawsuits caused by what she referred to as “takings”.

“Takings” refer to loss of income due to regulations imposed on space and airspace. Compensation under state statutes may be compelled as a result of takings, according to Eckley.

“Courts could look at agricultural use and see if there is an economic loss to various owners,” said Eckley. “Takings from agricultural uses and from crop dusters are a possibility. Aerial spraying may be the only possibility for some crops.”

Loss of income because of setbacks could be considered a taking, according to Eckley. If an agricultural owner cannot produce agricultural yields at the same level as they did prior to the regulations governing wind turbine setbacks, they may have sustained a loss of income.

“Close proximity to adjoining lands could be considered trespassing,” said Eckley. “Turbines too close to adjoining property could cause nuisance and trespass claims.

“Civil issues might not directly effect the county’s pocketbook,” continued Eckley. “The county should consider what are reasonable setbacks. Consider the property owners who could not negotiate setbacks because of their lack of negotiating power.”

Pratt County Planning Board member Ted Loomis asked if regulations were too restrictive, if that would not have an economic impact on property owners.

Eckley answered, “There is no vested right in having a wind turbine on a property.

Bickley Foster of Foster and Associates, said it is possible to increase the required setbacks if needed, based on a public hearing.

“Every use out there is grandfathered in at this time,” said Foster. “The ordinance does not define accessory uses and it should be addressed at a later date. Once the ordinance is adopted, Foster and Associates will provide guidance for 60 days.”

There were questions from those in attendance concerning special use permits and legal obligations, especially relating to transferring those obligations to affiliates. It was also noted that turbines could cause wind turbulence effecting flight patterns in and around fields to be sprayed by crop dusters.

“Wind farms are very unusual patterns,” said Foster. “Somebody needs to explain in each individual case, where turbines are to be located. It’s called a special use and you can make changes.”

Adams said, “Each individual wind tower will be considered separately and land owners can make presentations to the zoning board relating to each unit.”

“We met for a month and considered a lot of issues,” said Kent Moore. “Whether or not we ended up with a perfect document, is questionable. It is a step in the right direction. There is wiggle room in the document and I recommend the commissioners adopt the ordinance.”

Todd Eagleston of British Petroleum (BP) said that not all of their issues with the regulations within ordinance were addressed to his satisfaction, but he thought they could be handled in the planning process.

“The regulations as proposed are something we can work with,” said Eagleston. “I think this works for us. We will need to address issues as they come up during the application phase.

The ordinance was unanimously adopted after a motion by Rinke, seconded by Reynolds.

Source:  By J.W. Keene, The Pratt Tribune, www.pratttribune.com 10 May 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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