During a discussion of county “Commercial Renewable Energy” regulations and special use permits, county commissioner Chip Westfall [made] an unexpected suggestion: a total moratorium of wind energy permits for a limited time.
“We are so deep into this, and we are only three to four months out, do we need to extend our moratorium to include nonissue of a permit for any tower until everything is locked down?” Westfall asked.
Currently 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.”
The county has been working on zoning and permitting of wind energy turbines in the county – something that is currently governed by the 2019 moratorium and conditional use permits.
According to Karen Rothe, planning and zoning director, the planning and zoning commission is about three months from presenting regulations to the commission after having an informational meeting on the issue last week.
And time could be fleeting. NextEra Energy has been evaluating Harvey County for a possible wind energy project for months.
“We do have interest,” Rothe said. “There is very strong interest from NextEra. There could be a possibility they could apply at any point in time.”
That led to the county commission discussing a moratorium on wind energy projects while planning and zoning creates regulations for those projects.
County staff has already drafted a resolution to create the moratorium, though it has not been reviewed by the commission.
“We do not have a resolution prepared today if you were wanting to implement a moratorium right this moment,” said Anthony Swartzendruber, county administrator. “We, as staff, have drafted something to that effect. It is with [county lawyer] Greg [Nye] for review and will need to be brought back at a later meeting.”
Commissioners requested that resolution be brought before them July 26 for possible passage.
“The only way to get the planning and zoning commission time to review this without the risk of an application is to put a moratorium in place,” Swartzendruber said.
The moratorium would not allow for a wind energy project to be permitted, and would have a time limit in place for the moratorium.
It can also be rescinded by a vote of the commission.
All regulations created by the county would also be subservient to possible state regulations for wind farms – and there were bills worked in the last Kansas legislative session to regulate wind farms.
It is unknown if those bills will be resubmitted in the next session.
“The chairman mentioned six months [for a moratorium] and that might be prudent for this reason: by then we will know of anything prefiled by the state,” Westfall said. “… That could cause us to make adjustments.
“The state legislature could preempt anything we do,” said commissioner Don Schroeder.
How we got here
In September NextEra Energy announced the company would evaluate Harvey County for a wind energy project, though has not discussed how many turbines or locations that project may include.
The commission passed a resolution setting limits on where permits could be issued. The planning and zoning commission began looking at the county and alternative energy regulations.
During the July 12 meeting of the planning and zoning board, members reported requests from county residents to ban commercial wind farms in Harvey County. There are bans in surrounding counties – Sedgwick and McPherson counties have a total moratorium while portions of Reno, Butler and Marion counties have partial bans.
Those were considered, along with other regulations in surrounding counties.
The Harvey County Historical Society came before the planning commission to ask for changes.
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.
The planning and zoning commission will consider changes to the the ordinance in August, including:
1. Create a Sand Hills District Overlay from NW 12th north to Dutch Ave and East to West from Woodberry to Golden Prairie.
2. They would like to add a 2000′ setback for Parks and Recreational areas, City Limits, Schools and Churches.
3. They also felt they needed to increase the property line setback from a minimum of 550′ to 1000′. Non-participating property owners would be able to sign a waiver if they were in agreement to locate them closer but no closer than 550′ or height of the tower plus 50′.
4. They would like to see requirements for an Acoustic Study, Shadow Flicker Study, Road Impact Study and Ice Throw Study. The Road Impact Study would be done by Road and Bridge’s retained engineer and the other studies by a third party paid by the applicant.
5. Add a limit on Shadow Flicker of 30 hours or less per year.
6. Receive a copy of signed lease agreements.
Planning and zoning staff are currently crafting a new set of regulations for review of the Harvey County Planning and Zoning Board and the Harvey County Commission.
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