The Pratt County Commissioners gave final approval on a Special Use request from NextEra Energy to construct a wind farm in the southwest quadrant of the county. The vote took place following a public hearing on the wind farm at the regular weekly commission meeting Feb. 5.
Anyone objecting to the commission decision has 30 days to file an appeal with the District Court.
This is the second wind farm NextEra will construct in Pratt County. The Ninnescah Energy Wind Farm is located in the southeast quadrant of the county and has been in operation for over a year. The New wind farm will be Pratt Energy Wind Farm.
About two dozen attended the public hearing that was moved to the District Courtroom for more space for visitors.
Commissioners David Ward and Joe Reynolds voted to approve the wind farm. Commissioner Glenna Borho abstained from voting and taking part in the discussion because of a conflict of interest.
Sam Massy, NextEra project director, was on hand to answer any questions from the audience concerning the wind farm. Prior to the vote on the wind farm, Massey presented information about an amendment to the wind farm resolution that would allow the movement of a couple wind towers at the request of the property owner. Reynolds and Ward approved the amendment, Borho abstained because of a conflict of interest.
County resident Travis Davis, who lives in the midst of the future wind farm and is not taking part in the project, said that eight turbines on neighboring land were within one mile of his house and there were 22 within a mile and one half of his house. There are about 120 turbines scheduled for this project and 42 percent of all the turbines in the project are within three miles of his house.
Davis said didn’t sign up for the project but he would have to put up with the mechanical blade noise, the synchronized red lights on top of each tower that flash all night long, the loss of view of the open prairie plus potential health issues. None of this was here when he built his house years ago.
Davis, who spoke for others in the audience including two other landowners that lived near him and were also not taking part in project, said he wanted to the commissioners to consider sending the application back to the planning and zoning board to see if they could get the towers moved further away from his and others properties. He doesn’t want the project stopped, he just wants the towers moved further away from his property.
Davis said he was not against the wind farm and what his neighbors did with their land was their business. But the result was something he never imagined when he built his house several years before the wind farm was even considered. He said NextEra offered him mini blinds to block the view and financial compensation.
He said the Pratt County Commissioners were supposed to represent the residents of Pratt County and that representation was not there for him or his neighbors that are impacted by the wind farm.
Davis asked the Commissioners to not take this lightly because it alters the area forever.
Ward asked if Davis had visited with anyone during the planning portion of the project and Davis said he had not. Ward said it seemed the problem should have been addressed during the planning phase.
Massey said notifications went out to all property owners in the proposed site and there was a year for public comment.
County resident Robert Barnes said he had attended the Pratt County Planning and Zoning Board meeting when the wind farm application was discussed and it was pretty cut and dried. He said the commissioners had ignored the land owners who were not participating in the project and the commissioners didn’t have to live with the turbines.
Barnes said a lot of the land owners in the project area were absentee owners and they didn’t have to live with the turbines either. There are reports from people in the Dodge City area that live in a wind farm project that say they hate them. The new wind farm is not a spread out affair but a conglomeration.
“I do wish our county commissioners would have backed us better on this,” Barnes said.
Pratt County has one of the highest regulations on wind turbine set back in the state concerning property that is not taking part in the project. There is a 2,500 feet required setback from non-participating property and NextEra has place those towers even further away from the property line. Because of the space available for the project, it would not be feasible to move the neighboring towers further away without having to rework much of the project, Massey said.