OSWEGO – Labette County commissioners later this month will hear concerns from a rural Oswego man concerned about site placement for wind farms, especially if they get developed in Labette County.
Mel Hass visited with county commissioners Monday during the public comment period. Hass also spoke to the Parsons Planning Commission in August about its potential regulation of wind farms in the 3-mile area around Parsons. Planners agreed to restrict wind turbines in the area to 200 feet tall, which would rule out commercial wind energy. The planners will have a public hearing on the issue in October before the city commission will consider the recommendation.
Hass moved to Labette County from DeKalb County, Illinois, where he previously said he had five wind turbines within 3,400 feet of his house, the closest one 2,300 feet.
He said Monday he bought his land in rural Oswego about six years ago and checked each year to make sure wind farms weren’t being developed before moving here. In Illinois, he worked to get a rule changed related to siting wind turbines 3,000 feet from property lines, which was more than the original 1,400 feet from foundations. He was part of a group called Citizens for Open Government.
Hass said he’s spoken in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota about the wind farm issue and wants to share with commissioners the benefit of his research and personal knowledge of wind farms.
Commissioners, who have discussed the wind farm issue and wondered if development would occur in Labette County, agreed Hass could address the issue on Sept. 23. He said he wants to explain how a wind farm works and the impact the sounds produced by the farm can have on residents nearby.
“I think that would be a good idea. The more we know about it the better. It’s a topic that’s out there. It’s not going to go away,” Commission Chairman Doug Allen said. Allen said he’s done some research on his own as well.
“There are protections you need to take for property owners,” Hass told commissioners. “I respect the alternative energy. It’s something that needs to be looked at. But we also need to protect our citizens from the aspects of them.”
Allen said that commissioners think countywide zoning may be a problem, but he suggested commissioners put together a working group of citizens interested in the wind farm issue and have them research it and make recommendations to the board.
“I don’t want us to be caught unawares. Whether or not it’s viable here, I don’t know. I’ve heard yes and I’ve heard no. But the last thing we want to do is to do nothing and have these just pop up,” Allen said.
Commissioners didn’t take action on Allen’s suggestion, which was not in the form of a motion.
Hass said he just wants property owners protected. Setbacks for the wind turbines is one way to protect them.
He said that he had difficulty selling his property in Illinois once wind turbines were placed around it. Interest waned when potential buyers heard about the turbines and the issues Hass experienced from sound and shadow flicker. Eventually, he sold the property to a young couple who needed the space for their horses and the man had trained to work on turbines so thought he knew what to expect. The land sold at a lower price than Hass asked, though.
Allen said he was concerned about the impact developments would have on non-leaseholders. Having turbines within 1,300 feet of a home of a non-leaseholder could impact property value.
Hass also briefly discussed the noise turbines make at night, their impact on wildlife and that a number of leaseholders are absentee landowners who see the potential for generating money from their properties and may not consider the impact on neighbors.
He said he’s not against wind farm development, but thinks they should be sited responsibly.
“It’s interesting but we need to be protected at the same time.”
In other matters, commissioners:
— Agreed to finance the purchase of 39 Motorola radios (20 portables, 19 car radios) over five years through Community National Bank at an interest rate of 2.93%. Two other banks bid on the financing and bid 2.99% interest rates. Annual payments will be $50,361.54. Existing radios are at the end of their life cycle this year, which means that if they break down Motorola won’t fix them. The new 800 megahertz radios are guaranteed for 10 years. Sheriff Darren Eichinger said the radios will be dual banded and will carry a VHF low band frequency as well. The 911 dispatch center will get a new radio for the console also.
— Heard that the Mound Valley City Council wanted the county to maintain Hickory Street, the main north-south street. Council members told Commissioner Fred Vail, who attended the meeting, that they thought they had an agreement with Public Works from years ago that if they maintained Pecan Street the county would maintain Hickory. Commissioners were not aware of any such agreement. Vail said he needed to check with Public Works Director Sandy Krider, though.
— Agreed to pay bills totaling $382,381.22 including $44,000 for two railroad cars that will be used to replace two bridges on 6000 Road west of K-101. Road oil was another big expense for the period because of chipping and sealing operations going on in the county. A tanker truck of oil could cost as much as $10,000.
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