OSWEGO – Labette County commissioners on Thursday morning enacted a 12-month moratorium on construction of wind farms in the county on a 2-1 vote.
Commissioners Doug Allen and Lonie Addis voted for the resolution to establish the moratorium. Commissioner Fred Vail, who attended by phone, voted against the resolution.
The moratorium only relates to wind farm construction and not the groundwork that’s underway now by RWE, a utility company from Germany that is exploring the development of a wind farm in Labette County. RWE sent letters to landowners and the county earlier this month to begin a dialogue with landowners and gauging interest in leasing property for a wind farm. Commissioner Vail said his family farm received a letter.
Commissioner Allen said he met with RWE’s Brandon Hernandez on Monday. Hernandez is RWE’s wind development manager and he told Allen that any development could take several years before it would be ready for construction.
Hernandez was also meeting with landowners this week. He told Allen that RWE is scouting Labette County now and the timeline for construction, if it happens, would be two to three years.
“They wanted to be very transparent with the public and the county commission with how they’re going to do things,” Allen said.
“If it turns out to be that, that’s going to be a much better working relationship than apparently exists up in Neosho County.”
Allen said Hernandez said the company needs to do studies yet and set up a wind measurement tower, and that may be a year down the line yet. The towers are generally less than 200 feet tall and are clearly marked and have high visibility marker balls attached to the cables.
The moratorium will be in effect once published in the Parsons Sun and the Labette Avenue, which is the official county newspaper this year for legal publications. The effective date is listed as Nov. 7.
Allen said companies may conduct soil studies, drill core samples and talk with landowners. The moratorium restricts wind farm construction and construction of roads, turbine foundations or other infrastructure.
The resolution says that wind energy projects can impact the health, safety and welfare of citizens, especially those with land or homes close to the turbines. The wind farms and their construction also could impact county roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
The resolution also reads that the commission “is also empowered to adopt zoning regulations to regulate the siting and standards for commercial wind energy projects to protect and preserve the interests of Labette County and its citizens and to protect and promote their health, safety and welfare and also to provide clear guidance to potential developers of wind energy projects concerning the conditions under which such projects might be determined to be appropriate in Labette County and the obligations and limitations that may be imposed.”
The commission also will assess “whether there are conditions under which commercial wind energy projects would be deemed appropriate or whether, regardless of the proposed location within the county, such projects, by their nature and the nature of Labette County, should not be permitted.”
The year-long moratorium will allow the commission to begin an impact study relating to wind farm development to determine “zoned area boundaries and conditions, a map of said applicable zoned areas” and make further resolutions and allow public discussion.
A committee to review wind farm development will have five to seven members and it will be formed within a month, Allen said. Commissioners hope to get a balanced board, including an engineer perhaps, landowners and others with an interest.
The moratorium could be extended if necessary. Each violation of the resolution shall be punished by a fine up to $1,000 a day and the county may require immediate cessation and abatement of any violation.
The Parsons Planning Commission this week set a height restriction for wind turbines of 150 feet within the three-mile territorial area around Parsons that would preclude installation of commercial wind turbines. The city commission still has to act on the recommendation.
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