After a 45-minute discussion about Windborne Energy’s conditional-use permit, Marion County commissioners at the July 31 meeting directed county counselor to check case law on CUPs with no expiration date.
The issue of the open- ended CUP is concerning to some landowners affected in the south central part of the county, according to some patrons at the meeting.
For almost seven years the wind farm hasn’t been active, said Tom Britain, one of the residents.
Commission chairman Randy Dallke said Britain requested the county send the wind farm project back to the planning and zoning department when they met July 17.
Britain said because of the wind farm’s inactivity, the open-ended contracts, the right-of-way agreement and other reasons, it needs to be reviewed.
Rex Savage, who was instrumental in getting the project started in 2010, didn’t attend Monday’s meeting, but wrote a letter instead.
In it, Savage stated the wind turbine project is moving ahead and Southwest Power Pool has executed an amended interconnection agreement.
“The project will market power into the grid,” Savage stated in his letter, “and this is the result of many months of work.
“Steady progress in updating and amending leases with the project reflects how an injection of more than $150,000 was put into the hands of Marion County landowners since December 2016.”
The letter, Savage said, is an attempt to avoid unnecessary and inflammatory conversation that could occur with a personal appearance at meeting July 31.
When planning and zoning worked on this last fall, and prior to the county’s adoption of the same, Savage said, assurances continued to be governed by the rules existing at that time.
Those existing rules were to be unaffected by these changes, to do otherwise would be to revoke a vested right.
“What did happen was to motivate the commission to take action on erroneous or incomplete information,” he said.
“We have learned while working with this project that the outside world is cognizant of governmental attitudes in areas they are considering entering,” he added.
Emma Tajchman, director of planning and zoning, said David Yearout planned to attend the commission meeting, but he was having major health issues and stayed home.
“So, we didn’t have an attorney look at it?” asked Robert Sellers, one of the people unhappy with the wind farm situation.
Susan Robson, county counselor, said another attorney did look at it, and recommended granting the CUP.
Robson said she drafted what went with the CUP, but had no involvement with the permit-side of that project.
Nick Peter, another landowner, said he’s been “stuck out in that area” for seven years waiting to build a house.
“I can’t build one,” he said, “because I’m near the tower locations.”
Britain added: “There are still test towers that have been up for four years. I have to look at it, too.”
After hearing from residents and fellow commissioners, Kent Becker requested Robson look up litigation regarding CUPs and no expiration dates.
Becker said he wondered if there might be some precedents set. The commission unanimously voted in favor of Becker’s idea.
Other residents opposing the project attending the meeting included Ed Robinson Jr., Randy Eitzen, Jackie Hett and Lorrie Peter.
New appraiser named
Lisa Reeder is the county’s new appraiser, replacing Brian Frese, who served as the interim appraiser after Ray Cook retired.
Reeder began Aug. 1, and is looking forward to starting her new job, she said.
“Marion County is so unlike where we are from,” she said. “The county itself is absolutely beautiful, and the people have been so nice and friendly—we already love it here.”
Originally from Trego County, Reeder said she worked more than 20 years as an appraiser in western Kansas, and covered multi-counties.
Reeder said she has a lot less driving to do.
“It takes five minutes to get to work. In my last job, it took anywhere from 10 minutes to 90 minutes to get to work.
“There was an office for the appraiser in each of the counties I worked,” she said.
Reeder said she met the staff on Monday, saying they are a wonderful group of people to work with.
“My plan is to definitely get out in the county and meet people,” she said.
Reeder said she and husband John have two children Cole, 23, and Macy, 19.
The commissioners voted to hold off on discussing personnel hiring practices until the next meeting.
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