The Reno County Planning Commission is scheduled Thursday to consider adopting a procedure to follow for amending the county’s regulations on commercial wind development.
The process may include two public hearings.
The first, proposed for June 18, will take public comment on what should go into the regulations.
The second will follow the planning board’s drafting of regulations, if they decide to do so, before forwarding them to the Reno County Commission for adoption.
No public comment will be allowed at Thursday’s meeting.
Comments being accepted now
The agency has already been accepting written suggestions of what should be included in the regulations, which spell out such things as how far a commercial wind turbine may be located from a residence or a property line, called setbacks, and allowable noise and shadow flicker limits.
Residents who live in the area where NextEra Energy’s proposed Pretty Prairie Wind Farm was to be located have been asking for stricter regulations since developers first indicated an 80-plus turbine development was proposed.
A couple of residents this week once again unsuccessfully asked the county commission to impose a moratorium on such developments until the rules are adopted.
Under the proposed order that will be taken up Thursday, only documents submitted between March 4 and June 18 will be considered by the board as it drafts the regulation amendments.
The calendar on submissions began following a March 3 special meeting of the planning commission when officials announced documents would be accepted, said Reno County Planner Mark Vonachen.
The public is encouraged to submit “written suggestions, proposals and comments related to commercial wind energy conversion system regulations” between now and that June date.
Those submissions can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, via snail mail or delivered in person to the Reno County Planning Department at the Reno County Public Works Department, 600 Scott Blvd. in South Hutchinson.
“Due to potential inaccuracies and misunderstandings which may result, the content of phone calls or personal visits with Reno County staff will not be transcribed and distributed to the Reno County Planning Commission,” the order drafted by Vonachen notes.
During the June 18 public hearing, set to begin at 4:30 p.m. at the Public Works Department, commenters will be allowed up to 5 minutes each to speak.
After the public hearing, the planning commission will begin drafting the regulations and, when they’re considered in their final form, another public hearing will be set.
Following that hearing, the Planning Commission will vote on what to send to the Reno County Commission with a recommendation for adoption.
“After hearing from the public at the June meeting, the Planning Commission may decide to authorize me to bring them a proposal, or they may decide the current regulations are adequate and don’t need updating,” Vonachen said in an email.
The order notes the adoption procedure is subject to change, particularly due to circumstances that may be prompted by the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak.
Besides the proposed order, two other items are on Thursday’s agenda.
They include a request by Rita Quillen for a lot split at 10208 N. Wilson Road, which is about a half-mile north of the intersection of West 95th Avenue and North Wilson Road, and a conditional-use permits sought by Kole Talbott, of Branch Communications, to construct a 199-foot tall telecommunication tower on property owned by the Joseph and Susan. Leonard Trust at 4101 E. Elma Drive.
NextEra still pending
Two residents appeared at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting asking the board to impose a moratorium on commercial wind development until new regulations are adopted.
Angela Mans cited concern that NexEra could file a new application for a conditional-use permit staring in June, since one year will have expired since their original application.
County Counselor Joe O’Sullivan assured her, however, that the clock doesn’t start until a year “after their previous application decision becomes final, and it’s not final yet.”
“It’s not final until all appeals through the appellate and district court are resolved,” he said. “Then the clock starts, in my opinion.”
The issue remains in Reno County District Court and hearings on motions in the case have been suspended due to the court being closed by the novel coronavirus. It was unclear when the case might resume.
The one-year prohibition is only if they wish to seek a new permit for the same territory involved in the original application. Another company could also come in seeking a permit.
“NextEra said this is ‘world-class wind,’ ” Mans noted of the region. “It’s just a matter of time (before someone files.) We need to set up our own regulations that are best for the county, instead of having them tell us.”
O’Sullivan said he didn’t believe any other company would seek a permit in the county either, pending resolution of the NextEra case.
“There are so many legal issues that have to be resolved by the courts, I don’t see anyone wanting to get involved until those issues are decided,” he said.
Based on the amount of time and advance work that goes into making an application, “I think we’d probably we aware if it was happening,” he said.
“As a practical matter, I don’t see any CUP application being made in the near term,” O’Sullivan said.
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