December 17, 2016

Wind farm zoning proposal amended

By John Robinson | The Emporia Gazette | December 15, 2016 |

The Lyon County Planning and Zoning Board voted 5-0 in favor of revising a zoning recommendation for the proposed wind energy project near Reading during a Wednesday night meeting.

The board voted 6-1 in November to recommend a zoning change from developer RES Americas, which asked for nearly 17,000 acres to be re-zoned from agricultural to ag conditional use with two conditions.

An extension request be submitted if construction had not begun by 2018.

Wind turbines be placed 1,640 feet from existing property lines.

Lyon County commissioners had voted to return the motion to the planning board, seeking additional explanation for the property line recommendation.

Supporters of the project spoke against the property line recommendation at a Lyon County Commission meeting on Dec. 1, saying it severely limited the land which could be used for the project.

Phil Mott, the board member who made the original motion, voted to amend the two recommendations on Wednesday.

“I’ve looked at the refreshing of the renewal of the permit,” Mott said. “In the original motion it had a renewal in 2018. In the proposal, it states construction could start as late as early 2022, so I thought there should be that same reset of that same zoning every two years.

“The other one is that I thought each tower should be located on leased property, and that area extending around that turbine radius a distance of 1,640 feet should be in that control zone – through a lease or an easement – that would remove the requirement to be specifically 1,000 feet from that property line. They could be within the 750 or 500 feet from the property line as long as they have this easement, which is binding through the life of the project.”

The new recommendations read:

A refresh or renewal of the permit should be done if construction has not begun by the end of 2018. One additional renewal would be required if construction has not started by the end of 2020.

It is required that each tower is located on leased or owned property and the area extending around the turbine radius for a distance of 1,640 feet be owned, leased or be granted an easement for the life of the project by the adjoining landowner. Allowing for an affect of light flicker, ice throw and other associated affects, this is the area referred to in the control zone in the current regulations. The setback from occupied residences to be increased from 1,000 to 1,640 feet. Road right-of-ways may cross the control zone as long as the 750-feet setback is maintained.

“This will not place any undue hardships on the developers of this project and it will protect those landowners in the area who are not interested in participating in the project from harm,” Mott said. “The allowance of the binding easement will allow participation on a limited basis by adjoining landowners who have no wish to enter into a full lease.”

The planning board does not approve or disapprove the project. As an advisory board, the decision made during Wednesday’s meeting acts as a recommendation to the Lyon County Commission.

“We look in our regulations and if it fulfills our requirements we are supposed to allow it,” board member Steve Brosemer said. “If they don’t, we can make the conditions to where they do or we can reject it.”

Several members of the community were also present for Wednesday’s meeting. The board opened the floor for public comment and answered several questions about the process.

Questions ranged from who would enforce regulations on the wind farm, payments in lieu of taxes and what the next step in the process will be.

According to the board, the Lyon County Commission will discuss those topics if the project progresses to those points where it would become necessary.

The board voted to recommend the zoning change to the Lyon County Commission 5-0. Board member Richard Rust was not present at the meeting and Mark DeWeese left the board.

Seeley said the board is looking for a replacement member and those interested can pick up an application at his office at the Lyon County Courthouse, 430 Commercial St.

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