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Planning and appeals board recommends wind energy plan

The Lyon County Planning and Appeals Board recommended a wind energy development plan from RES Americas Wednesday night.

The recommendation will cause the plan to appear before the Lyon County Commission in two weeks.

“There was an application submitted back in October,” Sam Seeley, director of Lyon County planing and zoning said. “Usually we have a meeting in the next month … and that’s what we did. We went over the project, went over people’s concerns, went over those who were for it or against it and here we stand with the recommendation.”

With a final vote of 6-1, board members heard from members of the public, who attended the meeting in opposition and in support of the plan, as well as those who were seeking more information.

“We’re right on the edge of it, we’re trying to find out what’s going on,” John VanSickle, a resident of Lyon County with land which falls within the proposed plan’s area – a 20,000-acre tract of land near Reading, said. “They don’t know where they’re going to put towers, we don’t know what land is leased and what isn’t.”

Steve Brosemer, the board member who voted to deny the recommendation, said it was a similar lack of information which caused him to vote no.

“It needs more time because we have a statutory, mandatory period – by rule – before a project evaporates,” Brosemer said. “They need to be further along with exact locations. They need to be further along with the exact heights of the turbines before I feel like I can make a decision on this.

“It’s very important to understand that I’m not inherently opposed to wind energy, it’s just that I think they need to have a better plan. Oftentimes, when we do commercial-zoning requests, they come to us with a business plan, they come to us with how they’re going to handle traffic, they come to us with all aspects of the business before we approve them. This did not include any of that.”

Jeff Sabins, senior development manager at RES Americas, said the lack of information is the nature of the project.

“It’s the nature of the project at this time,” Sabins said. “At this stage of development for a wind project we just don’t have those specifics – we don’t know what turbines we’re using. If it’s determined that no one wants to do a conditional-use permit until we get those there is some risk that this project is less competitive than other projects in Kansas because of the tax treatment.”

Seeley said the board ended up granting a recommendation due to the plan matching what is required.

“What we look at is what’s in the books,” he said. “If they meet what’s in the book – we can place conditions because it is a conditional-use permit – but other than that we have to deal with what’s there.”

Seeley encouraged those opposed to the plan to fill out a protest ballot.

“There’s a form you need to come get from me,” Seeley said. “You can either get it online, I can email it to you or you can stop by my office. You fill that form out with your address, name and the land and then you have it notarized. Once you have it notarized you take it to the Lyon County Clerk’s office and she’ll stamp it as received.”

Seeley’s office is located at the Lyon County Courthouse, 430 Commercial St., Room 101. Seeley can also be reached by email at sseeley@lyoncounty.org or by phone at 341-3471.