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Neosho County residents get update on wind farm lawsuit

ERIE – Neosho County residents backing a lawsuit against a wind farm should be prepared to wait on the legal process.

A group of Neosho Ridge Wind opponents and some of their supporters gathered for a dinner Saturday evening at the Red Barn Lodge, rural Erie, to raise money for the lawsuit seeking an injunction on the project that will construct 139 turbines in the southwest part of the county. One couple facing the same concerns in McPherson County traveled 3 1/2 hours to the fundraiser to support the effort. The dinner also served as an update on the legal proceedings.

Forty-five landowners, some of whom live in the project footprint, filed suit against Neosho Ridge Wind LLC in July in Neosho County District Court. The civil suit states the project “will constitute a nuisance with respect to the plaintiffs and their property interests. It will be an annoyance and a use of property which gives offense to or endangers the life or health or obstructs the reasonable and comfortable use and enjoyment of the property of the plaintiffs.”

The project opponents say they aren’t necessarily against wind energy, but they do oppose the project in what they think is an area too heavily populated for the windmills that will tower over 600 feet tall.

The lawsuit is now in the discovery phase, which is the fact-finding period in which both parties gather information and make the other side aware of information.

Ed Spielbusch told attendees Saturday the discovery phase will take months.

“That’s just how the legal system works,” he said.

Spielbusch, who is administering the lawsuit fundraising account with Debbie Coover, said more financial support will be needed to continue the fight. All donations will remain anonymous.

If the group does win the injunction, Spielbusch said, an appeal surely will follow, meaning more money will be needed.

“If you have friends, if you have neighbors, reach out to them. If they could help, that would be fantastic,” Spielbusch said.

Spielbusch pointed to an open door in the barn and said the view beyond represents what the group is fighting for, although there are other worries, including shadow flicker, noise and property devaluation.

“There’s a lot of concerns, but that’s it, out that open door,” Spielbusch said.

Bryan Coover, one of the plaintiffs, along with his wife, Debbie Coover, predicted some information will be difficult or impossible to get from Apex Clean Energy, the project’s parent company, because no one has been able to get certain information from the wind industry in 20 years.

The suit was filed in Neosho County, but the attorney for Apex has requested the case be moved to federal court, either in Kansas City or Wichita. Coover said Wichita attorney Pat Hughes, with Adams Jones Law Firm, has told him he is pushing for the Wichita venue because that’s where he is based and it’s closer to Neosho County.

Apex’s intent, Coover said, is to drag out the process as long as possible so that the project gets far enough along that the firm has put in so much money that it can make the argument that it must be allowed to finish the project. Still, Coover said he would welcome the federal venue because a federal judge doesn’t have to worry about local politics and wants to do a good job.