Opponents of a proposed wind farm that would span from Florence to Aulne to north of Peabody have hired two lawyers in an effort to stop potential development.
Both lawyers were present to observe Monday’s county commission meeting, but neither Newton lawyer Jim Gillmore nor Overland Park lawyer Robert Titus spoke during the meeting.
Their presence was predicted two weeks ago when rural Peabody farmer Randy Eitzen warned commissioners lawsuits “will be filed from different angles” if the county granted a conditional use permit for National Renewable Solutions’ 100-tower Expedition Wind Farm project.
The Wayzata, Minnesota-based company originally submitted a CUP application to the county planning and zoning department March 28, but county planning and zoning director Sharon Omstead asked NRS to clarify parts of the application and add details. A second CUP application is being written by NRS.
Opponents have regularly spoken out against the proposed wind farm since February, repeatedly asking commissioners for a moratorium. Opponents objected Monday when commissioners considered a resolution to allow NRS to include roads and right-of-way crossings in their CUP application.
“This consent does not serve as an approval of the CUP, and does not grant road and right-of-way crossing permit rights,” the resolution states.
Commission chairman Kent Becker read it aloud to onlookers at the meeting.
“It doesn’t give the right to use the roads, it gives us the right to determine what the right-of-ways can be used as,” commissioner Randy Dallke said.
“I definitely think you need to table what you’re talking about until next week or the week after until we really figure out what we’re talking about,” Eitzen said.
Eitzen said opponents’ lawyers would be ready to speak soon.
Pat Hughes, the county’s lawyer for wind farm negotiations, said the resolution means that more landowners in the area are entitled to notice before a CUP is granted.
“Why is the county trying to help a wind energy company right now?” Amy Stutzman, a vocal wind farm opponent since February, said.
“This is not about helping a wind farm company,” Hughes said.
Stutzman asked why the county had to grant anything now.
Dallke said if the county is not going to permit the wind farm company to cross any roads, there’s no point in submitting a CUP proposal at all.
Eitzen again called for the resolution to be tabled “until we have a chance to respond.”
“I’m not ready for any more wind farm discussion,” Stutzman said. “I think we need a moratorium.”
Several onlookers said, “I do, too.”
Stutzman angrily walked out of the room with tears in her eyes.
In the hallway, Stutzman said, “I’m just going to have my attorneys sue.”
Other property owners reiterated earlier contentions that a wind farm will lower property values.
Commissioners passed the resolution on a split vote, with commissioner Dianne Novak opposed.
Novak, who has voiced support for a moratorium several times in the past, said she voted against the resolution because she does not know every detail of the wind farm CUP proposal.
“If you’d rather have a lawsuit, I guarantee you will have it by next week,” Eitzen said.