The panel charged with researching wind energy in Labette County, in its final meeting Monday, spent most of the meeting in closed session with an attorney.
After the two closed sessions, which lasted 35 minutes total, one committee member discussed his views on zoning specific to wind farms before the meeting adjourned. Other than that, no action followed the closed sessions.
Initially, the committee wanted to discuss its recommendations to the county commission with one another in closed session, which may have been a violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act, a law that governs public boards. State law limits closed sessions to certain topics and boards have to make the motions to close meetings to the public using certain language and set a time limit for these closed sessions. The initial motion did not mention any of the topics allowed under the law and may have violated KOMA had it continued. When asked about this, the panel’s facilitator, Charlie Morse, called Labette County Counselor Brian Johnson, who joined the Zoom meeting. The panel then approved a motion to meet in closed session for attorney-client privileged discussion, which is an allowed topic under the law.
The four panel members, Sandy Krider, Rod Landrum, Kevin King and Mel Hass, are to make recommendations to county commissioners on issues related to road repairs, safety, environmental concerns and setbacks related to wind farms. On Monday, the panel members agreed to give Morse their written recommendations for their chosen topics and give their opinions on topics researched by other panel members. Morse will share these writings with Johnson and Johnson will share them with county commissioners on Jan. 4.
RWE, a German utility company, is exploring the possibility of developing a wind farm in the western half of Labette County. RWE is in the process of signing leases with landowners and using instruments to study the wind and weather in the county.
After Monday’s closed sessions, Hass said he supports county zoning as it relates to wind development. He understands that countywide zoning is limited in Kansas. But he thinks that zoning is the best way to protect citizens, including those who would lease land to wind farm developers and those who would not. The added benefit is that wind developers would know upfront what to expect in Labette County if a development is proposed.
Zoning could address setbacks, construction issues, property values, shadow flicker and other issues that may be created by wind farms, he said.
Hass came to Labette County from Illinois, and his property was in the footprint of a wind farm. His county tried special use permits to control wind farm development at first and then changed to an ordinance with stricter language.
He said he knows zoning is not popular but he thinks a limited zoning ordinance related to wind farm development would work.
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