Buchanan County leaders have set dates next month for public hearings to receive input on a proposed wind energy ordinance.
The hearings will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15, and Thursday, Jan. 16, in the Division Three courtroom at the Buchanan County Courthouse.
County officials have said such an ordinance, meant to provide guidelines to potential developers of wind farms, is a necessary regulatory first step ahead of any construction plans. Opponents, led by the recently formed group Friends of Buchanan County, have spent the past several months lobbying for a forum to express their viewpoints on wind turbines, which they in part claim pose health hazards and drive down property values.
The hearings are set to be preceded by a new development that the county believes will help set the tone for the discussions.
“We’re hoping to have a third draft (of the ordinance) posted on our website” by Jan. 3, said Eastern District Commissioner Scott Burnham. That amount of time, according to Burnham, should prove ample for residents to review any changes and other updates to the proposal before the hearings.
Burnham said the county is required by state law to hold at least one public hearing before considering an ordinance. The second night, he added, is being scheduled “because this is such a controversy … if we can’t get it done in one evening.”
Candidates for moderator at the forums are being reviewed, with a confirmation of that selection expected soon. Rules for the hearings, including speaker time limits and other protocol, are being vetted and will be posted on the county’s website, https://www.co.buchanan.mo.us/134/County-Commissioners-Office.
The dates were selected after consultation with the county’s Planning and Zoning board, which meets in regular session on Jan. 8 to discuss other agenda items, said Burnham.
The county’s timetable for subsequent action on the ordinance will include work sessions for Planning and Zoning members in February. In March, the board could potentially vote on making a recommendation to the commission on the ordinance. The commission will have the final say on either its passage or denial.
Western District Commissioner Ron Hook called the scheduled hearings “a positive step” to gather meaningful opinions for the process. Presiding Commissioner Lee Sawyer said a public notice of the hearings will be published in the St. Joseph News-Press and said residents would have “a reasonable amount of time” to inspect the draft.
Friends spokesperson Deb Birr said the organization is pleased the hearings have been scheduled, but is concerned the county has not held any preliminary informational meetings.
“A lot of people are in the dark,” Birr told News-Press NOW on Thursday.
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