OSWEGO – The mayor of Edna asked Labette County commissioners on Monday to approve a resolution that would restrict construction of an industrial wind complex in the county for three years and within three miles of any school or incorporated city. The commission took no action.
Sam Vail brought the proposed resolution with him Monday. The resolution as proposed would restrict the use of county resources in the construction of a wind project within a year; restrict an industrial wind project from being built within three miles of a school or incorporated city before June 28, 2024; allow the moratorium on construction to be extended for additional periods. This extension would depend on the commission developing regulations relating to commercial wind projects, having a plan to draft and adopt such regulations and agreeing that additional time is necessary to complete the process.
The resolution as proposed would have teeth in that a violation would be punished by a fine of up to $1,000 a day. The county counselor would also be able to seek an injunction to enforce the resolution.
Vail said the Edna City Council on May 13 agreed to remain neutral on the industrial wind project.
Vail said the council does not have the time or resources to implement a three-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction. This would require creating a zoning board, a comprehensive plan and publishing the plan, a process that County Counselor Brian Johnson said would take a minimum of a year. This zoning board could restrict wind development within its territory, as has the Parsons Planning Commission, which oversees zoning issues within the three mile area around Parsons.
Vail said studies have shown that industrial wind turbines could impact the health and safety of citizens. He is concerned about the health and safety of Edna residents and children who attend Edna Grade School. The three-year moratorium he proposed in the resolution would give cities and schools time to further study issues related to wind development and pursue zoning if the communities desire.
Vail said he didn’t think the Edna council would oppose a three-mile buffer around Edna.
“If the county initiates that I don’t think there will be a problem,” Vail said.
Commissioner Lonie Addis said he didn’t think the county could create a buffer around a community.
Vail said Edna is a small town with a small budget. Edna and other cities need time.
“Time is a big thing,” Vail said.
Johnson said he was concerned that if the commission adopted Vail’s resolution that it would create indebtedness in cities by requiring zoning unless the county initiated the process and created zoning that cities could adopt.
Addis asked if the zoning could only restrict wind development.
“You can if you can justify it properly,” Johnson said.
Vail asked Johnson if the county could place a moratorium to stop wind farm construction. Johnson said if you can justify it. But a moratorium is not a final solution.
“It has to end,” Johnson said.
To enable the delay, the document would have to clearly articulate reasoning for it. He said if the county imposes three mile setbacks around cities and schools these restrictions are only good for the wind development at the time. This would not apply to other developers, and enforcement of such a restriction when the wind developer sells the wind farm is in question.
Addis asked Vail if the five-member council was on board to support the resolution seeking a moratorium.
Vail said he received positive responses from three council members.
“So you’re polling them? You’re polling the board?” Commissioner Brian Kinzie asked.
Vail asked if he’s not allowed to talk to his council.
“You can’t poll them,” Kinzie said.
“You really can’t,” Addis said.
Polling council members outside of a meeting to see how they would vote on an issue could be a violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act. The county commission violated the act on April 27 when Kinzie and Commissioner Cole Proehl had a phone conversation about county business relating to wind development. Addis told Vail he may be sitting with the commission in a KOMA education session if the commission violates the law again.
“You might be getting nailed now,” Kinzie said.
Vail didn’t say which council members he visited with. Edna council members are Cindy Barnes, Jim Stallings, Sharon Bozman, Jessie Foister and Jo Kinzie, Commissioner Kinzie’s wife.
Addis asked Commissioners Kinzie and Proehl if they wanted to address Vail’s proposed resolution. Neither said anything. Addis said the commissioners’ minds have not changed. Addis opposes wind development. Proehl and Kinzie have said they want to study the issue before making a decision.
Vail said he hoped the commission understood that any vote by them on the wind development would impact cities.
“Our cities worked very hard to increase their valuations and provide safe population centers within our county,” Vail said.
Addis said he hopes the commission will do the right thing for the county.
“I’m just looking for a simple way to give the cities, the schools time and protection from the industrial wind complex being right outside our door,” Vail said.
Kinzie mentioned the county hiring a law firm to help with the process of dealing with an industrial wind development. He recently gave Johnson the names of three or four law firms that could help the county because they have helped other counties.
Addis said he is concerned about using firms that Kinzie suggested.
Later, Johnson updated commissioners on the legal firm search. He said so far Foulston Siefkin LLP seems to be the best firm in Kansas with the most experience dealing with industrial wind development. He’s still looking and seeking input from others, he said. Foulston is a huge group with specialists and a “ton of experience.” The firm would be expensive, though.
Kinzie said Foulston got a wind developer to pay the legal fees associated with its work in another jurisdiction.
Johnson also said he’s not heard back from RWE, the German utility company looking to develop a wind farm in Labette County, since he last heard that RWE’s Brandon Hernandez did not want to travel to the county alone for a tentatively scheduled meeting with commissioners on Monday. Addis objected to the format requested by RWE (including presubmitted questions).
RWE Renewables is looking to harvest wind in the western half of Labette County, from Meade Road to Douglas, from 19000 Road to 8000.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding