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Pair of county residents request commission impose moratorium on wind development

Two Reno County women, one living within the zoned portion of the county and one outside, appealed to the Reno County Commission Tuesday to impose a six-month moratorium on development of wind farms in the county.

The Commission last week sent the issue of a proposed countywide zoning layer for certain commercial uses, including wind farms, back to the Reno County Planning Commission to draft a proposal.

While recognizing it would take 3 to 6 months to get new zoning in place, however, officials declined in the meantime to put a moratorium on development.

“The planning commission indicated there is a limited need for this zoning and it is not urgent,” said Kristina Horsch, 22591 Kent Road. “I disagree. NextEra is in the county researching and building meteorological towers… We were told yesterday they’d finalized their map.”

“We need this to protect property owners and ensure the well-being of county residents,” Horsch said. “We are at a critical juncture. We need to take a step back… I ask you to impose a moratorium.”

Resident Amy Brown, 7506 E. Fountain Green Road, also asked for a development freeze.

“The decisions you make will impact this county for the next century,” Brown said. “The contracts they’re putting forward are for 96 years. That’s not only your lifespan and mine, but it will affect our children.”

“I strongly encourage you to step back, give the time that’s needed to evaluate regulations that truly need to be in place,” Brown said.

Commissioner Dan Deming, however, said he saw no need for a moratorium after NextEra, at last week’s commission meeting, said it would follow existing regulations in both the zoned and unzoned portions of the county.

“At least this wind company, on this wind farm, has agreed publicly to apply the same regulations and restrictions in unzoned portions of the county,” Deming said.

“I’m glad they publically said that, but is it in writing?” Horsch asked. “Do we have an agreement with them? Here a handshake means something, but with a big corporation it doesn’t.”

Deming said he’d be meeting again next week with NextEra officials and would ask for that.

Commission Chairman Ron Hirst noted that, although NextEra announced it has a purchaser for power generated by a Reno County wind farm, “that doesn’t mean there’s been any approval for a wind program by any government agency, by planning or the Reno County Commission.”

The wind developer indicated it would host a public meeting in November to address public questions, Hirst said.

After the meeting, Brown complained the setback requirements within the zoned portion of the county that NextEra has agreed to follow countywide are insufficient.

“It’s less than a quarter-mile,” Brown said, contending that is not a scientifically supported distance to protect residents from the possible dangers and effects of the massive turbines. She suggested one or two miles be the minimum setback.

“They need to protect the residents of rural Reno County and the only way is to put something in place to stop this,” she said.