His fellow commissioners rejected the attempt by County Commissioner Dan Deming on Tuesday to give more formal direction to the Reno County planning board before it takes up an anticipated application for the Pretty Prairie Wind Farm.
Proponents of a wind moratorium, meanwhile, submitted their own list of conditions they’d like addressed in any development agreement and use permit between the county and NextEra Energy.
Two women who’ve addressed the commission every week for the past two months offered new data they claim shows the proposed NextEra development will result in millions in negative economic impact on the county over the long term, not economic gain.
A NextEra official was also in Tuesday’s audience but offered no comment.
“I think the planning commission needs more direction on what we’d like to see accomplished,” Deming said. “Issues and concerns are best addressed by entering a negotiation with NextEra to enter a legally binding agreement.”
Issues he wants to be addressed, he said, include minimum setbacks, noise standards, shadow flicker, road maintenance, decommissioning of towers, public safety, in lieu of taxes, and treating the unzoned portion of the county the same as zoned areas, as well as “anything the planning commission feels appropriate after holding public hearings.”
All of those issues were covered in a letter the company previously submitted to the county and agreed to comply with if the county did not impose a moratorium – though the commission never formally accepted that letter.
“I think we need to give more clarification to the planning commission what we’d like to do,” Deming said. “It tells the public we do have concerns on many of the issues brought forth by opponents of this project. There’s nothing magic about it, but it gets the discussion started in that direction.”
Commission Chairman Ron Hirst noted the board has already instructed the planning commission to develop a countywide overlay district for wind and solar energy conversion systems.
“I don’t think we can agree on a setback ourselves,” Hirst said. “I like where you’re coming from regarding that, but had we passed a moratorium, they’d have had time enough to do that.”
Instead, he noted the commission last week ignored a recommendation from a majority of the planning board that the county either impose a moratorium or enter a binding development agreement, by doing neither.
County Administrator Gary Meagher pointed out that County Planner Mark Vonachen, who will assist the planning commission, has attended all of the commission meetings on the issue and is aware of the board’s thoughts.
“I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I cannot support this,” Commissioner Bob Bush said. “As I said at the last meeting, I’ve not decided if I’m for or against this project. What I am for is following the planning and zoning process. When NextEra submits an application, planning and zoning, which has a lot of intelligent people on the commission, will go through the application. They’ll hear from the people, pro and con on wind energy; they’ll see all the issues come up and they’ll make a decision about a conditional use permit.”
“We don’t need to tell them one plus one equals two or ABC,” Bush said. “Our job is to stay out of their way, to stay out of the mix and not say things that are basically obvious. Let them do their job … We don’t need to try to control them or direct them.”
Resident Kristy Horsch told the commission that proponents of a moratorium are not opposed to green energy or even development of a wind farm in Reno County, but that residents want protections for their health and investments.
“You have days now to do what you could have had months to complete” with a moratorium, Horsch said. “A permit will be submitted soon, and if you are not willing to enact a moratorium prior to that, it is essential that you work hand-in-hand with the Planning Commission to not only develop adequate zoning but to reassess the safety systems in our county.”
Horsch submitted an addendum to an economic impact study she previously presented to the commission.
It estimates the payments promised by NextEra fall $1.6 million short of what the county could earn if the project were fully taxed over its projected 30-year lifetime, though the tax breaks were legislatively imposed.
“If the turbines were not built here and growth continued in its current fashion, we estimate property taxes would increase by $14.1 million over the company specified life of the project,” she said. “If the turbines are erected, growth will stop, and depreciation in property value will occur. This will lead to a loss of $8.024 million over the life of the project. In other words, by killing growth and decreasing property value, the county is missing out on $22 million.”
Someone with a degree in math calculated the figures; someone else with a master’s degree in economics reviewed them, Horsch said.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding