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Moratorium on wind farms reviewed at county meeting 

Credit:  By Ray Nolting | Parsons Sun | www.parsonssun.com ~~

OSWEGO – Two members of the Labette County commission want to study justifications for a moratorium on construction of a wind development before possibly acting on it.

County Counselor Brian Johnson on Monday shared with commissioners a resolution to impose a seven-month moratorium on wind development so the commission can study zoning.

RWE Renewables is a German utility that is looking to develop a wind harvesting facility in western Labette County, from south of Big Hill Lake to north of Edna and west of Altamont. The company has leased 196 tracts of land totaling 25,560 acres, according to filings in the Register of Deeds Office. Some of this leased land is outside the boundaries of the territory in which RWE expressed interest.

Commissioners Terry Weidert and Lonie Addis wanted more time to review the moratorium language and justifications before acting on it. Commissioner Cole Proehl is against the moratorium.

Johnson drafted the document after last week’s meeting when the issue was raised. The county has had two moratorium periods. A one-year moratorium allowed the county to study wind development and that was extended once for four months. The moratorium expired in March 2021.

“I would not want to sign anything that’s totally on zoning,” Addis said.

Commissioners have previously discussed that imposing zoning in the county was one way to stop wind development. Zoning would not impact agricultural land, but landowners have expressed skepticism about that.

Johnson said the moratorium had to list a term, a reason for it to exist (such as safety) and a justification. The justification, or reasoning, was the most important item.

“When you do a moratorium you’re exercising your police power as a county,” he said.

He said the reasoning could be to explore zoning or for other studies. During the moratorium, the commission must make moves toward studying zoning or other listed issues or the moratorium could be considered arbitrary and capricious, which could make it more difficult to defend in court. The reasoning could include speaking with an attorney with expertise in wind development, he said, though that reason could be questionable.

Vincent Schibi, a candidate for Addis’ 1st District commission seat, wondered if the moratorium could be in place longer because a new commissioner or commissioners would not take office until January 2023.

Johnson said every elected board is subject to change, so he didn’t think a moratorium citing an election would qualify.

He cited the Sunflower Racing Commission as an example. The board was going one direction on an issue. After an election, the board went in a different direction.

Weidert said he wanted to gather information on Neosho Ridge Wind and the impact of the turbines being turned off on landowners and leaseholders. He also wanted to study the Allen County wind project and the property liens filed there because of the development.

Johnson said those questions could be part of exploring zoning. He said studying zoning, even if it’s not implemented, would give valuable information about the county and its water, sewer and electrical services, as well as industrial, commercial and residential properties.

Johnson said any action the commission takes could be reviewed and used against the county at a later time in a legal claim.

“The more specific you can be about what you’re trying to accomplish during your moratorium, the better protected you are,” Johnson said.

He said studying and implementing zoning could cost $100,000 and take a year, and the county has many other issues that are taking time and money.

Proehl said the public has to understand what could be lost if RWE doesn’t build. He thinks millions of dollars a year are “realistic.” If the county fights the wind farm and loses, the county gets very little money or concessions. If the county fights in court and wins, it will be out a lot of money. How will these losses be paid for? he asked.

He acknowledged that wind turbines are not perfect.

“But we have to be realistic about the outcome and the cost to every other citizen in this county,” he said.

The county road crews do a good job on roads with limited equipment and resources. That could change if the wind company built a wind farm and didn’t negotiate road use with the county. He proposed making the move to Labette County expensive for RWE and imposing strict measures. A setback proposal from Proehl last year, which was eventually rescinded, was 1.1 times the height of the turbine, or 500 feet from public roads and non-participating property lines, 1,600 feet from non-participating residences and one mile from incorporated towns. A moratorium does not open dialogue with RWE and that is what’s needed, Proehl said.

Schibi asked Proehl if he would be comfortable living in the footprint of a wind farm. Proehl said, when asked again for an answer, “if that’s where I live, that’s where I live. Who am I to say what you can do on your land?”

Proehl mentioned that buyouts were an option in other developments. Schibi asked him why should non-participating landowners be forced to move? Proehl asked Schibi if any property he purchased said anything about the view. Proehl then mentioned a blinking sign at ParCom, Schibi’s business, that Proehl could see at night from his former home in Parsons. He said he never complained or asked Schibi to turn off his sign at night.

Schibi said the sign is not a 600-foot tall wind turbine.

Proehl said once you restrict a 600-foot turbine, where does it stop? Cell phone towers, time and temperature signs at the bank?

Proehl then repeated what he’s said before. He is not a blanket no and he’s not a blanket yes for wind development.

“I want to get a dialogue started,” he said.

Leighton Davis, also a candidate for Addis’ seat, asked if wind developments would be grandfathered in, or allowed, if the county passed zoning. Johnson said only if construction had already begun on the wind farm when zoning began. He then asked if zoning would impact ag operations, such as corporate farms, S corps or C corps. Johnson said zoning would not impact agriculture. He said it could affect those operations if the owners decided to do something different with the operation, depending on restrictions in the zoning ordinance. Exceptions could be granted, Johnson said.

Source:  By Ray Nolting | Parsons Sun | www.parsonssun.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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