After nearly six hours and 52 speakers, the continued public hearing on the NextEra wind farm conditional use permit was again recessed Tuesday night and scheduled to resume again 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 10 at the Atrium Hotel.
It was an afternoon and evening dominated by repeated calls to reject the application as submitted by the Florida company and to impose a moratorium on wind development until the county drafts new more stringent regulations.
The majority of speakers before the Reno County Planning Commission appeared to be residents within the footprint of the proposed 220-megawatt wind farm, or their families or others living within miles of the project, with addresses primarily in Reno County, Andale, Ost and Mt. Hope.
Many of the speakers voiced support for wind energy, but all repeated that the Pretty Prairie Energy Center was not properly sited to protect the health, safety and welfare of county residents.
“Reno County started a wind coalition a decade ago and welcomed Siemens a decade ago,” said Kevin Horsch, of West Sun City Road. “The conversation is not if wind energy belongs in Reno County. If we chose to expand wind service with wind energy conversion, we should take the time and do it right. Not just any project will do. We need to choose a project that best fits our county, one that is properly sited and economically viable, one that supports Reno County jobs by using our fine Siemens turbine constructed here.”
“Proponent say denying the permit will send a bad message,” Horsch continued. “This CUP (conditional use permit) is a bad message. We’re not asking you to choose between denying it and suffering the consequences of a slight. There’s a third option. Send back the CUP, set an expectation of proper siting. If it kills the project, then it was not right for Reno County. Another project will come.”
The evenings only three speakers in favor of the project included two landowners who will benefit from it and a Pratt County commissioner who was involved in approving a permit for NextEra in that county, who spoke in favor of the corporation and its development.
Notably, however, Commissioner Glenna Borho referenced the restrictions imposed by the county on the development -– which two speakers last Thursday indicated took more than two years to write.
Among the 49 speakers opposed to approval of the permit was the superintendent for Renwick USD 367 and a couple of parents involved in another school expecting to benefit.
“I’d like you to remove our name from the list of recipients,” said Superintendent Mindy Bruce, referring a promise by NextEra to contribute $50,000 a year to four area schools, in a division determined by participating landowners. “We’re very concerned about this project and what it will do to potential growth in this school district. We want you to take your time and give it a lot of consideration.”
As the 52nd speaker concluded, Commissioner Bruce Buchanan asked if it was appropriate to see how many more people wished to speak. Again, about 35 members of the audience of around 100 people raised their hands. After a brief break, the board agreed to continue the hearing to Wednesday.
Once the public comment is completed, NextEra Energy staff will be allowed time to offer rebuttal.
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