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County zoning board to look at wind turbine permitting  

Credit:  The Newton Kansan | July 12, 2022 | www.thekansan.com ~~

Where wind turbines could be permitted as part of a wind farm project by NextEra Energy in Harvey County are limited – the county passed a resolution in 2019 setting limits for wind turbines. Those limits will be under review during a 7 p.m. July 12 meeting of the Harvey County Planning and Zoning advisory board and board of zoning appeals in the courthouse community room, 800 N. Main, Newton.

The meeting is a work session for planning board to discuss current regulations on Commercial Wind Energy – no public comment will be welcomed, and no formal action will be taken at this meeting.

There will be a first reading of any changes at the next Planning Commission Meeting.

And there will likely be changes.

NextEra has already submitted a topics of discussion document, and the Harvey County Historical Society has suggested placing more restrictions within the resolution.

The resolution, 2019-19, creates a moratorium for turbines being placed in a flood plain, and, a limit that “No Renewable Energy Equipment shall be located closer than 2,000 feet from an active residential building.”

As previously reported by the Newton Kansan, local cartographer, historical researcher and author Brian Stucky created a map showing where turbines could be constructed – and the space is limited.

“It is overwhelmingly cluttered and clogged,” Stucky said.

“here would you put towers? Up in Marion county, they have 20 to 30 wind turbines per township. There is no way you can put 10 to 30 wind towers [here]. Maybe two or three.”

Historical concerns

The historical society has submitted proposed resolution changes that could, if adopted, restrict those areas even more.

The society is seeking the preservation of historic sites, with the proposed language:

“The CUP shall avoid cultural, historical and archaeological sites. Thus, Applicant shall take measures to ensure the protection of Said sites. Prior to submitting the Conditional Use application for a CREP, the Applicant shall supply to the Zoning Administrator a letter from the Kansas Historical Society (KHS) attesting to the fact that no cultural, historical or archaeological site or resource shall be negatively affected by the construction and operation of said wind farm. Cultural, historical and archaeological resources and sites are those as designated by the State Historic Preservation Office and include both pending and approved nominations to the National Register of Historic Places, the Register of Historic Kansas Places and the Kansas Historic Resources Inventory.”

Currently all of the sites listed on the state registry are buildings or districts within municipalities – 24 in all. Newton, Sedgwick and Halstead each have entries in the registry.

On the Kansas Historic Resources Inventory, there are more than 1,100 listings – including rural sites like bridges and towns that have come and gone.

Stucky, who has mapped the old Chisholm Trail and ancient native trails in the area, mentioned concern for still existing trail ruts in Harvey County.

There are three sites of those – one in Newton and one in North Newton, and a spot of section nine of Walton Township.

The Newton ruts are listed on the Kansas Historic Resources Inventory. The North Newton ruts are within a protected urban area.

The Walton Township area, however, might be at risk.

“That is the crossroads of a lot of trails,” Stucky said.

“It is mostly pasture. I would like to have [wind] nowhere within a mile of that.”

Taking a look around

The county borders three counties – McPherson, Reno and Sedgwick – which have enacted wind energy bans, and Marion County, where a wind energy farm has been constructed after a political fight.

During the meeting the board will review and compare 37 different policy points – from easement restriction to economic impact report requirements – for Harvey, Reno, Butler, Marion, Saline, McPherson and Sedgwick Counties.

There is a spreadsheet prepared for the board, created from internet sources comparing wind energy policies.

For example, Neither Butler or Harvey County does requires an acoustic study by a third party, while Marion and Reno counties do. Harvey County does not allow for construction in the 100 year floodplain, while Reno County requires a state approval and Marion and Saline counties allow construction with a permit.

NextEra “Topics of Discussion”

NextEra submitted an eight page document for the planning and zoning board to review.

In that document the company addressed how wind turbines work and are constructed, health concerns, flickering sunlight, sound concerns, ice buildup on turbine blades that can lead to “ice throw,” water impacts, agricultural impacts, road impact, aviation concerns, military concerns and lighting of turbines.

Timelines

Initally NextEra was expected to begin land acquisition this year, a process that takes about one year to complete.

“We usually work with every landowner, whether they prefer a sale or a lease,” Bagwell said.

“Wind farms are compatible with farming and ranching.

“[A turbine] takes only about one acre out of production. It is a great way for a farmer to diversify.”

Bagwell said most properties are leased. Following land acquisition, the company will go through a permitting process – working with county planning and zoning to get all needed permits.

There is a provision within the conditional use permit that can allow for a turbine within 2,000 feet of a residence – if the property owner “supplies a properly signed and executed waiver form that will be supplied to the Applicant and filed with the Conditional Use application.”

According to NextEra construction is, at least, two years away. If the project is constructed, it will take between six and nine months to complete.

Source:  The Newton Kansan | July 12, 2022 | www.thekansan.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 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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