CLINTON – The DeWitt County Zoning Board of Appeals will reconvene March 12 to vote on whether to recommend a special-use permit for a proposed wind farm.
Chairman Andy Hedrick adjourned the ZBA meeting Friday night after the board heard nearly 35 hours of testimony over seven nights. The board will meet at 5 p.m. March 12 at Clinton High School.
Lenexa-Kan.-based Tradewind Energy has proposed the $300 million Alta Farms II project, which would comprise about 67 individual wind turbines, each no taller than 591 feet in total tower height, spread over about 12,202 acres in Barnett, Wapella and Clintonia townships.
Opponents testified Friday that they believe Tradewind failed to meet the standards spelled out in the county’s zoning code for a special-use permit.
“The burden to prove this permit meets the standards of a special-use permit is on the applicant and they haven’t done that,” said Phillip Luetkehans, an attorney representing several DeWitt County residents opposed to the wind farm. “This application is premature. There are too many unanswered questions.”
He was the last of more than 70 witnesses who testified against the project this week. Two weeks ago, more than two dozen witnesses testified in favor of the wind farm.
About 150 people attended Friday night’s meeting.
Andrea Rhoades, a rural DeWitt County resident and leading opponent of the wind farm, said: “I am very pleased with the testimonies with the concerned citizens of our county. They spoke with passion and thoughtful research, which proved this permit does not meet the standards.”
Like Rhoades, Tradewind Energy Development Manager Tom Swierczewski said he also was looking forward to the ZBA’s recommendation and the County Board’s ultimate decision.
“We are happy to see all of the public input on this important project,” he said. “We think our application is complete and our testimony proves that our application meets or exceeds all of the requirements of the DeWitt County code.”
The ZBA will forward the permit request to the full County Board with a positive or negative recommendation or no recommendation at all. In any case, the County Board is expected to consider the permit in late March.
If the permit is approved, Tradewind Energy expects to break ground this summer and be in operation by late 2020.
Tradewind has said the project would generate more than 200 jobs during construction and 12 permanent jobs during operation and yield millions of dollars in property taxes to schools and local units of government.
Opponents previously testified the project would lower property values, endanger wildlife, produce flicking shadows and noise that would disturb nonparticipating landowners in the footprint of the project and interfere with crop dusters and the National Weather Service’s Doppler radar.