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Wind turbine permit rules moving forward 

Credit:  The Newton Kansan | September 17, 2022 | www.thekansan.com ~~

Ron Dietzel of Newton has spent about a year going to Harvey County Commission and Planning and Zoning Board meetings – concerned about the possibility of the construction of industrial wind turbines in the county. “In Newton Township, where I live, there are 91 rural homes Within Kansas, Harvey County has one of the highest rural populations. There are close to 100 rural residences in 15 townships,” Dietzel said “… the high density rural population of Harvey County means there is no space for 60 to 80 turbines.”

For much of that year he felt alone – there were only a few people who were taking the time to be at meetings.

That, however, started changing in the last few weeks as the county Planning and Zoning board began discussing conditional use permit regulations in the wake of the county commission electing to not create a six month moratorium on turbines as the planning group did its work.

“There is a rapidly growing opposition to turbines,” Dietzel said Sept. 14.

“A year ago there were two or three of us … it progressed to 15, then 30 to 35 in a meeting – and now look.”

He waved his hand behind him, where a room set with 160 chairs at the Meridian Center was full and staff was opening up a second room to offer more seating for a meeting the the planning and zoning board.

Dietzel, like many others, was making use a public comment section of the meeting. Speakers were timed, with a limit of about 2 minutes.

A meal for wind energy supporters was hosted in the room next to the main meeting hall prior to the planning and zoning board meeting, yet the vast majority of speakers during the meeting railed against turbines and encouraged the board to become more restrictive than what was in proposed language of the permit.

The planning and zoning board had met several times, with research done on each portion of the proposed conditional use permit.

Within the permit language, which was approved unanimously by the zoning board members, were a pair of provisions that project opposition lauded even as they pushed for more.

The permit creates a 1,500 foot setback – 2,000 feet from residences. A number of speakers asked the board to consider a one-mile setback.

When the permit language was approved, the board added a 2,000 foot setback for churches and schools, but left remaining setbacks where they were.

“I feel like we came up with a compromise, and that neither side is going to be really happy with us,” said Beth Penner, member of the planning and zoning board.

The board also removed all waiver applications in regards to setbacks – something applauded by wind farm opponents. Sept. 14 there were 27 speakers who supported not having a waiver process.

“We felt like waivers offered too many options out,”

“We had discussions about that, over the last several meetings we felt pretty strongly and had a lot of good feedback on the waiver situation because we know how they can be used.”

The final draft, which will be reviewed and voted on by the Harvey County Commission, also contains provisions for the preservation of historical sites, provisions for ice throw, provisions limited shadow flicker to 30 hours per year, requirements for reporting of erosion, reporting bid kills and cleanup of chemical spills.

The permit also requires review of turbines which may affect the Equus Beds by the Rural Ground Water Management District.

According to Fiona Bagwell with NextEra Energy, which announced the project at a county commission meeting about a year ago, the permit provisions will make construction of the project difficult.

“Changes that I am seeing proposed in the regulations will make it near impossible to develop a wind farm if they are passed,” Bagwell said.

“Increasing the property line setback from 500 to 1,500 feet is extremely restrictive and unnecessary. The industry standard setback is … 1.1 times turbine height.”

That means a 500-ft high turbine would have a setback of 550 feet. That setback, she said, accounts for “safety, sound and ice throw.”

“Anything about a 1.1 factor does limit the opportunity for land owners to have a turbine on their property,” Bagwell said.

“At the end of the day this project will not move forward without landowner participation. Ultimately the regulations should consider all landowners, including the landowners who want to participate and signing leases.”

She said there is interest, and when the company is ready to pursue a permit there will be enough “leases signed to build a project.”

Bagwell had previously notified the county by letter that the company would likely not seek permits until April of next year.

Source:  The Newton Kansan | September 17, 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 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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