The Reno County Commission accepted a determination Tuesday that it will require a unanimous decision by their board to approve a permit for NextEra Energy’s proposed wind farm in Reno County.
That after a consultant and county staff established that owners of close to half the property abutting land that would house turbines for the proposed wind farm had filed a successful protest petition on the project.
The commission vote on NextEra’s conditional use permit application remains set for a special meeting 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Fox Theatre.
The Reno County Planning Commission voted in late April against granting a permit for the 80-plus turbine in the southeast portion of the county, sending the negative recommendation to the county commission.
That was after the vast majority of those speaking during four days of public hearings on the issue voiced opposition to the plan.
After the Planning Commission vote, landowners had 14 days to file protest petitions to force the unanimous County Commission vote if the board wished to override the recommendation.
Planning consultant Russ Ewy validated the protest petitions on behalf of the county.
Ewy advised the commission Tuesday that, of the 233 protest petitions filed, he determined 127 of them, or 54 percent, were within a 1,000-foot notification buffer.
Of those, he tossed another 13 because signatures were unreadable or he was unable to determine the signers had authority to sign on behalf of the designated property.
“It may be argued that these failed petitions are valid,” Ewy stated. “However, our position is to be as conservative as practical.”
That left 114 petitions as valid.
Ewy then had to determine how much of the land within the 1,000-foot notification buffer – less the application area itself and any road right-of-way – was represented by the petitioners.
Of the net 375 million square feet in the protest area, the threshold required for a valid petition of 20 percent of the land was 75 million square feet.
Ewy, however, determined the property owned by petitioners represented 172.4 million square feet or 46 percent of the land.
After the commission unanimously voted to accept the findings, County Counselor Joe O’Sullivan asked the board to formalize the results in a resolution and to vote to adopt it next week.
NextEra officials declined to comment after the ruling. Four of its representatives were in the standing-room crowd.
“We are grateful that our county has been so thorough in following the process laid out for this conditional use permit, including the protest petition,” stated Kristy Horsch, who represents a group of opponents in the area, in an email after the meeting.
“With a 46% protest, it is apparent that the protest petition should be recognized in making this decision, as well as the planning commissions rejection of the CUP,” Horsch stated. “We are blessed that our county acknowledges that. We understand that this is another step in the permit process, and we look towards continuing this process moving forward for Thursday’s meeting.”
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