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Logan commissioners table Niyol wind farm, cite need to study info

NextEra Energy’s Niyol wind farm continues to be slow-walked through the permitting process as Logan County officials struggle to balance conflicting property owners’ rights.

The Logan County Commissioners tabled the Niyol special use permit Tuesday after a three-hour public hearing, saying they wanted to get more information.

The public hearing was held in the ballroom of the Sterling Elks Lodge to allow social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly two-dozen people spoke during the meeting and two large binders of documentation were offered from both sides of the issue.

Opposition to the project has come from a group calling themselves Concerned Citizens for a Safe Logan County. Residents of the area cite a number of concerns, including setbacks from neighboring structures, noise, “shadow flicker,” and negative environmental impact. NextEra officials say they have addressed all of those concerns.

A decision on the special use permit needed to build the nearly 90 wind turbines west and south of Fleming already was delayed for a month when the Planning and Zoning Commission tabled the application at its April meeting and then recommended approval at its May meeting.

During the April planning commission meeting the commission members voiced concerns about whether a wind farm is compatible with that area, given the population density. While the area is overwhelmingly rural in nature, commission members noted that many of the objectors don’t own vast tracts of unoccupied land, but smaller, exurban holdings of just a few acres.

A month later, discussion among the planning commissioners focused on whether the permit application meets current Logan County criteria and whether it posed any real danger to the area around it. Most of the board members cited the fact that wind turbines have operated in Logan County for decades with no problem, and that NextEra had met or exceeded the county’s regulations and guidelines for setbacks, maintenance and decommissioning.

The county commissioners said Tuesday they need time to study the documentation they received during Tuesday’s meeting. They will take up the issue again at their June 16 meeting.