A NextEra Energy official declined Tuesday to say when he expects a permit application to be filed for a proposed wind farm in Reno County. The application needs to be filed if a public hearing is to be held on time in February.
Commissioner Dan Deming, in his final meeting as a county commissioner, asked NextEra representative Spencer Jenkins, who was in the audience, if he anticipated filing the company’s application for a conditional use permit by Jan. 15.
The approaching deadline – which is still a bit fuzzy – was suggested by County Counselor Joe O’Sullivan as the deadline to get a public hearing before the planning commission on Feb. 21.
“We have no public comment on the timing of the filing of an application,” Jenkins, project manager for development, responded.
The company previously stated during an earlier commission meeting that it expected to have the application filed before the end of 2018 to meet its project completion deadlines that would allow it to qualify for federal tax credits.
“It’s not an absolute date,” O’Sullivan said of the Jan. 15 deadline date. “It’s an on-or-about date.”
That’s based on giving county planning and zoning staff at least a week to review the application before publishing a legal notice of a public hearing and sending out notices of that meeting to residents living within 1,000 feet of a turbine location.
The legal notice must be published at least 20 days in advance of the hearing before the Reno County Planning Commission.
The planning commission at its last meeting agreed if the application was filed as expected, they would try to hold the public hearing on its regular monthly meeting date in February, which would be Feb. 21.
The commission can schedule a special meeting, but members present at the December meeting voiced a preference to hold the public comment session on the board’s regular meeting date.
Going back 25 days from that the Feb. 21 date, O’Sullivan said, is Jan. 25.
While it needs at least five days, staff would prefer a couple of weeks to review the application and prepare for that meeting – which would be the end of next week.
“So, in your opinion, if it’s not filed close to Jan. 15, it would be impossible to hold the planning commission hearing in March?” Deming asked Public Works Director Dave McComb, who oversees the planning department.
“Yes,” McComb said. “In all likelihood, if it’s not filed quickly, it (the hearing) will be in March.”
NextEra officials at a meeting in November projected its timeline included filing the conditional use permit application in mid-December, with a public hearing in February and a job fair and road maintenance and decommissioning agreements adopted in March.
Construction of road and collection lines would start in April, with the 80-plus wind turbines themselves going up between April and November.
The company must complete the project before the end of the year to meet its contract with the power purchaser and beat the expiration of federal tax credits.
Proponents of a commercial wind moratorium, meanwhile, continued to push back. The group argues that the development would have an overall negative economic impact on the county and asks the Reno County Commission to seek an independent source to do an economic impact study before a conditional permit is granted.
Haven-area resident Amy Brown, who doesn’t want a wind turbine near her farm, asked the commissioners to ensure countywide zoning that protects all residents be in place before approving any conditional use permits.
She asked the board to “have the right perspective” when considering the development. Rather than a perspective of business development, she suggested it be from the perspective of “protecting public health, safety, and welfare.”
That includes “protecting us from shadow flicker with setbacks, protecting us from ice throw with setbacks, protecting us from losing community and emergency services, protecting us from living in homes that become unsellable, protecting our children from low frequency ultrasound, protecting us from being party to a system we want no part of.”
Resident Kristi Horsch continued to argue that the projected $80 million to $90 million in economic benefit the company claims will come to Reno County are inflated and that losses in development and property taxes would offset those gains.
“It’s dangerous to say they’ll bring all that to the county and it’s a financial windfall,” Hoersch said. “Hire your own advisory team and have them do an impact study. Then you’ll have a true perspective on this project.”