LABETTE COUNTY, Kan. – “We had contacted by an outfit out of Austin, Texas, which was recently acquired by e.on, which is that big German energy company that builds windmills worldwide, that they were interested in Labette County,” says commissioner Doug Allen.
That first conversation was back in October, and according to commissioner Allen, they want to take their time in making a decision.
“I’m all pro-economic development, but there are some downsides to it, and we just want to make sure that everybody, even those citizens that aren’t directly participating in the wind farms are treated fairly,” says Allen.
The commission has, however, created a five-member citizen advisory committee to research the idea and make recommendations on things like setbacks.
They’ve also signed a moratorium on wind farms, that makes it so no county resources can be used for construction for at least a year.
“Which doesn’t include the ramp-up work. And I’ve made that clear to e.on. They’re gonna put up towers and do their studies and lease land,” says Allen. “They’ve been perfectly willing to do that, they just can’t start construction until mid-December of next year.”
The moratorium also states the county can create zoning regulations countywide to control construction.
“The only way you can really control the construction is to have zoning. We’ve got it now, but not countywide,” explains Allen. “That’s one of the reasons we have the board constituted is to make recommendations on whether we should have this countywide zoning.”
Commission Allen also says they’re taking a cautious approach because of how things were handled in Neosho County, Kansas, when Apex Clean energy was pushing for a wind farm project there.
“No criticism of their leaders up there, but it seemed like they sort of got ambushed. And there were signals being sent that it was coming, and they didn’t do anything to prepare. You’re not gonna make everybody happy, and we realize that, but you don’t have to exacerbate the situation,” says Allen. “So, we’re trying to get in front of it, get prepared, so that we do make decisions they’re reasonable decisions that people can understand.”
The commission doesn’t know yet what the setbacks from non-participating landowners will be, or if there will be tax breaks for e.on if the project moves forward.
Commissioners say it’s looking like the project will be located somewhere west of highway 59.
The moratorium the commission approved can be found below.
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