The Sumner County Commissioners overturned the 5-3 recommendation by the planning commission to deny a zoning change request for the Argyle Creek Wind Mill project.
The commission meeting was moved to the Raymond Frye Complex due to the large crowd that was expected. The filled seating area was mixed with residents both for and against the proposed project.
Invenergy’s, project developer, Vice President of Development Kelly Meyer presented a 30-minute slide show discussing the project and benefits from the wind farm.
The 60-65 turbines will create approximately 150-mega watts of electricity that will go into a power pool and distributed among the partners of the pool. In total 14,000 acres of land is currently under lease to install the turbines with 96-percent of the land remaining undeveloped for continued use for agriculture, oil and gas exploration, hunting and access purposes.
Meyer explained the economic impact the project will have in Sumner County during her presentation.
“We will have $30 million in local payments,” Meyer said. “About two-thirds of those payments will be direct to the land owners.”
She informed the commissioners 300 jobs would be created during the construction phase with the local contractor hiring at least 50 percent of the employees locally.
After construction is complete, the facility will hire seven full-time technicians and managers.
The project would total $525 in capital improvement once complete.
After the commissioners heard from Meyer, they opened the floor to public comments.
Twenty-five residents of Sumner County voiced their concerns and approval of the project. Each was given three minutes to state their case to the commissioners as is standard procedure according to Jon Bristor, director Planning and Zoning Environmental Health.
Many of the opposed mentioned that they chose to live in that area due to the remoteness and quiet the land offered. Several stated if they wanted to live in an area with large structures in their back-yard they would have chosen to live in the city.
Included in the discussion was attorney Jerry Hawkins, Wichita, who was there representing three property owners.
Hawkins attempted to discuss due process with regards to the matter. He asked for five minutes to discuss due process, while allowing his clients the opportunity to discuss their land ownership side.
“I want to make on record, that i object to being limited in this fashion,” Hawkins said. “The County has an obligation to provide due process to the members of the community. It’s further evidence that the county has not provided due process in order for me to not have more time to make my argument.”
Hawkins mentioned that the timing of the hearing, over the holiday period, was questionable.
“Why are we here on Dec. 27,” Hawkins said. “How many times have we made phone calls to people over the last week asking if somebody was in the office? To only be told they are out for the rest of the year. Between Christmas and New Year’s Day that is the most popular time for people to be out of town. Why are we here on Dec. 27, for a meeting that is this important? Government offices were closed on Dec. 26, and some offices were closed on Friday.”
Hawkins made a recommendation that the commissioners allow for an extended 30-day period to allow for opinions to go on record, before any decision be made.
Several of the concerns raised were that of the noise and ecological impact of migratory birds and that of the American Bald Eagle that has historically been known to have nests in Sumner County.
The noise put off by the turbines, depends on the variant placed onto the property, and no decision has been made as to which will be installed.
Invenergy stated that the closest American Bald Eagle nest was located three-miles away from the proposed site, and that a team of environmental specialist, based in Chicago, looked at all factors before recommending the area..
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