Parsons planners likely will look into creating zoning regulations for wind turbines in the 3-mile area outside the city.
The Parsons Planning Commission’s agenda for Tuesday includes discussion on a zoning amendment for wind energy conversion systems within the extraterritorial area of the city. That area encompasses a 3-mile radius from city limits except the portion located in Neosho County. The city has zoning control over the area while other locations outside of Labette County cities have no zoning regulations.
Parsons City Commissioner Tom Shaw has pushed for zoning regulations for wind energy turbines, most recently during a commission work session last week.
Shaw said the city should restrict turbines from the area before a company starts leasing land to build a wind farm here. He said zoning restrictions would protect property values.
“It’s something we could do now rather than react to it after it’s too late,” Shaw said.
In southwest Neosho County, Apex Clean Energy plans to build turbines for Neosho Ridge Wind. After months of controversy and debate and following the resignation of two county commissioners over the issue, the Neosho County Commission agreed to terms to allow the company to build 139 turbines measuring over 600 feet tall. Forty-four adjacent landowners who haven’t leased land for turbine placement have filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction on the project.
Laura Moore, community development director for the city of Parsons, said in an email to the Parsons Sun that she will let the planners know that Shaw would like them to look into restrictions for windmills in the 3-mile zone. She also plans to present them with a copy of the Barton County zoning regulations for wind energy conversion systems and suggest they set up a subcommittee meeting “to get the ball rolling on the subject.”
The Barton County zoning regulations pertaining to turbines seem to center around protection of migrant birds near the Cheyenne Bottoms Basin, a wetland area. The regulations set a no-build zone near the wetlands and a conditionally permitted zone surrounding the no-build zone. Wind farm developers would have to apply for a conditional use permit to build in that zone. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and The Nature Conservancy must receive a copy of the permit application for study and to comment on the application. Any turbines erected in the conditionally permitted zone could be ordered to be dismantled and moved if proof is presented that they are a hazard to migratory birds.
Shaw also pushed for restrictions around Lake Parsons for the Neosho Ridge Wind project. The Lake Parsons advisory board wrote a letter requesting restrictions, but Neosho County commissioners didn’t include those in its agreements with Apex. No restrictions were placed for the area near the Neosho Wildlife Area wetlands either.
The migrant bird protections don’t seem to apply as much to Parsons’ 3-mile zone, but the Barton County regulations also require a minimum setback distance for each turbine from all overhead utility lines, electrical substations, roads, rights-of-way, houses and structures of at least 1.1 times the height of the turbine. They also call for the same setback from property lines unless appropriate easements are secured from adjacent property owners.
The regulations also limit turbine noise to 65 decibels for any period of time when measured outside of any residence, school, hospital, church or public library.
The Labette County Commission has stated it has no plans to draft zoning laws for areas outside of cities.
Dave Oas, a retired Kansas Highway Patrol trooper, recently told Labette County commissioners he’s heard there was interest in developing a wind farm in Labette County. Oas said Neosho County didn’t have a process that was fair to the people who had concerns, resulting in mistrust and anger.
In Neosho County, most residents were not aware of the development until lease agreements were in place.
“When it happens here, we will do it differently, if it happens,” Commissioner Lonie Addis told Oas.
“We’ll do it very transparently,” Commissioner Doug Allen said.
Allen said the tax benefits that make wind development possible will sunset next year, so developments must move forward quickly unless the tax benefits are extended.
Addis said a wind developer left a business card for him, but he’s not been contacted otherwise.
In another matter Tuesday, the planning commission likely will reappoint Richard Babcock to a three-year term ending on Aug. 1, 2022.
The planners also will consider a request from Wall Funeral Home Inc. to rezone property at 2521 Washington Ave. from single-family residential (R-1) to two-family residential (R-2). They also will consider a special use permit for Hai Do for a storage unit business on east Main adjacent to Parsons Foursquare Church.
The planners will convene as the Board of Zoning Appeals to consider a request for a conditional use permit at 219 N. 23rd St. for construction of an 8-foot privacy fence and a request for a front-yard variance for a privacy fence at 2920 Crawford Ave.