Parsons planners will dive into possible wind farm regulations in the extraterritorial area around the city during their next meeting on Aug. 20.
Based on a push from City Commissioner Tom Shaw to develop wind turbine regulations, Laura Moore, director of community development, presented the Parsons Planning Commission with a copy of Barton County zoning regulations pertaining to wind energy conversion systems.
Moore also had suggested a subcommittee look into the issue, but during a meeting on Tuesday Greg Chalker said with there being only six members of the planning commission they all could be included on the entirety of the discussion. Other planners agreed. David Larsen resigned from the seven-member board to fill an unexpired term on the city commission.
Shaw is concerned that a company could begin development of a wind farm in Labette County, which has no countywide zoning, and encroach on the city with 600-foot turbines. The city enforces its zoning and building code ordinances within the area surrounding Parsons, roughly a 3-mile radius extending from the city limits except in Neosho County and the Great Plains Industrial Park.
Barton County’s zoning regulations pertaining to wind farms sets out an area where turbines can’t be built and another area that would require a conditional use permit. Moore said after Tuesday’s planning commission meeting that she would suggest the planners look into requiring a special use permit for turbines instead of a conditional use permit. The planners can approve conditional use permits on their own without further action, while special use permits require a planning commission recommendation as well as city commission approval.
Planner Ron Holsteen said he had hoped to address turbine regulations in a new set of zoning rules along with an updated comprehensive plan for the city, but the new plan and zoning regulations have been held up by the city staff.
Planner Richard Babcock asked City Manager Debbie Lamb if a wind farm has been planned for the county.
“I don’t think we really have a way to know,” Lamb said.
A wind energy developer left his business card with a county commissioner, but none of the county commissioners have spoken to anyone about a possible project here.
Holsteen said with Neosho Ridge Wind set for construction in southwest Neosho County soon, it probably wouldn’t be difficult for Apex Wind Energy to expand on that project with windmills in Labette County.
“It raises a lot of questions. There’s a lot to be discussed here,” Holsteen said.
He said the comprehensive plan would require a lot of community input, and that would be helpful on the turbine issue.
Shaw, though, indicated there is some urgency in getting turbine regulations in place to protect property values. If a wind energy company signs leases land to locate the turbines, a project could be hard to stop.
“They could be signing leases out there right now,” Shaw said. “If we wait, we’ll pay. If we wait for a comprehensive plan, we’ll be way too late.”
In Neosho County, a lot of landowners had signed leases before adjacent property owners even knew about the project.
Shaw said he’s not against renewable energy, but like Neosho County, the population density in the 3-mile zone is too great for the tall turbines.
“There’s a right place for them, and it just needs to be done in the right place,” Shaw said.
Holsteen asked how many houses are located in the 3-mile zone, and Lamb said she could get that information before the next meeting.
Tammie Oas of Parsons attended Tuesday’s meeting to speak about her concerns with turbines. She said there is a lot of potential for harm to the city, so the planners should give turbine regulations prudent, thoughtful consideration. With turbines planned for Neosho County towering at 600 feet, higher than others in the state, shadow flicker has to be a concern in Parsons, Oas said. She said the planners should try to find unbiased information on the issue.
“You’re really going to have to dig for information,” Oas said.
Special use permit
Also on Tuesday, the planners voted 6-0 to reject Hai Do’s proposed solutions to problems with his storage unit project on 24000 Road east of Parsons.
The planners in May approved a special use permit for the construction of storage units with certain provisions. They required screening on the west side of the property because Parsons Foursquare Church, 98 Main St., is located west of the property and is zoned residential. The planners also called for a solution to the church’s ditch filling with gravel after a driveway was built for the storage units. The planners also wanted Do to build a retaining wall along the west side of the property.
Do responded in writing that he would hire contract labor to clean out rock washed onto the church property and replace the current rock surrounding a culvert with larger rock, while also planting grass. Instead of the retaining wall, Do proposed laying a utility pole as a divider between the two properties and back filling the church’s side of the pole with dirt to prevent washout. Do also stated no screening should be needed.
The planners didn’t think Do’s solutions were adequate.
“My mind hasn’t changed any,” planner Lowell Wells said.
Moore hasn’t submitted the planners’ recommendation to the city commission yet because of the concerns. She said she would relay the planners’ comments to Do.
In other business Tuesday, the planning commission agreed to change the zoning at 2521 Washington Ave. from single-family residential (R-1) to two-family residential (R-2).
Wall Funeral Home Inc. bought the property at 2521 Washington and demolished a house there. The funeral home already had owned 2525 Washington and combined the two properties on one deed. Ned Wall said the company might build a duplex there.
The planning commission recessed to convene as the Board of Zoning Appeals to consider two privacy fence requests.
The board approved a conditional use permit for construction of an 8-foot privacy fence on property at 219 N. 23rd. The city’s codes restrict fences to 6 feet without a conditional use permit. Roger and Linda Rodine plan to build the fence only between their yard and their neighbor to further block the view of their neighbor, who they said has caused problems with them. The fence will be built adjacent to an existing 6-foot fence that is located partly on the neighbor’s property. The Rodines said the fence needs to be replaced, but the neighbor won’t allow them to touch it as only the posts are on the Rodines’ property, with the rest of the fence extending onto the neighbor’s property.
The board also approved a front-yard variance for a fence at 2920 Crawford. The variance is needed because the house owned by Vicki Souter is on a corner, meaning her side yard is considered a front yard for zoning purposes. Following the setback requirements for a front yard, the fence would have had to be built in the middle of the yard. The board approved the variance as long as the fence is built at least 3 feet from a sidewalk. Holsteen voted against the variance, saying the privacy fence won’t match the overall look of the neighborhood and will be too close to the street.
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