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Commissioners consider solar, wind farm regulations

Leavenworth County commissioners could implement regulations for commercial solar and wind energy farms.

Commissioners discussed proposed regulations during a work session last week. No formal vote was taken.

Commissioners seemed ready to move forward with regulations for solar farms. But developing regulations for wind farms may take longer.

One commissioner, Mike Stieben, believes commercial wind farms should not be allowed in the county.

“I personally think we should prohibit them,” he said.

Commission Chairman Mike Smith said he believes regulations are needed for wind farms, but he would like to try to keep large wind farms out of the county.

“The really large ones are concerning to me,” he said.

Smith said he needs to give more thought to the issue. He suggested commissioners may want to discuss wind farm regulations during another work session.

“My heart tells me we’ve got to have rules,” he said.

Krystal Voth, director of the Leavenworth County Planning and Zoning Department, said there are a couple of wind turbines in Leavenworth County that were erected for personal use.

“We do not want to prohibit those,” she said.

Voth said planning and zoning staff are not sure there would be enough available land in Leavenworth County to make a commercial wind farm profitable.

If a wind farm could be profitable in Leavenworth County, the County Commission likely would already have dealt with one, Commissioner Doug Smith said.

A solar farm has opened in southern Leavenworth County. The 1-megawatt solar farm opened early this year northeast of the city of Tonganoxie.

The County Commission allowed the construction of the solar farm with a special use permit.

Doug Smith said he thinks the facility looks great. He asked if the facility complies with the solar farm regulations now being proposed by staff.

County Administrator Mark Loughry said one of the challenges the solar farm would have faced under the proposed regulations is meeting a setback requirement.

“We have it set at 40 feet,” Voth said of the proposed setback requirement.

She said this would have limited the size of the new solar farm.

Commissioner Jeff Culbertson asked about fees that could be charged by the county to solar and wind farms.

Voth said county staff members had talked about fees beyond what is charged for a building permit.

Loughry said commissioners could require development agreements for commercial solar and wind farms, which could address ongoing fees.