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Wind farm back in the forefront

At Monday's meeting, the commission will be asked to waive a year-long moratorium required by county zoning regulations and enforced last September when the conditional-use permit was rejected. ...The application to be discussed Monday is slightly different than the proposal submitted about a year ago. The project area's internal and external boundaries have changed, including additional tracts of land to the south and west of the original project.

About eight months after a 2-1 Ellis County Commission vote denied an application for a wind energy project south and southwest of Hays, the issue is set to return to the table.

At Monday's meeting, the commission will be asked to waive a year-long moratorium required by county zoning regulations and enforced last September when the conditional-use permit was rejected.

Project boundaries for the most recent application have been scaled back 1,000 feet from surrounding landowners, virtually eliminating the 1,000-foot protest area required to obtain a petition of legal standing. Some of the most ardent opponents of the project now are surrounded by the proposed project, but not officially included in the area to be developed.

In addition to these changes that could be included in this application if the waiver is approved, the company has announced plans to continue pursuit of two other wind farm locations within the county.

"I'm hoping to build all three," said Krista Gordon, Hays Wind project manager. "We still have very, very high hopes for the Hays project, as well as the other two."

Not all Ellis County residents, however, are pleased by these developments.

The application to be discussed Monday is... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

About eight months after a 2-1 Ellis County Commission vote denied an application for a wind energy project south and southwest of Hays, the issue is set to return to the table.

At Monday's meeting, the commission will be asked to waive a year-long moratorium required by county zoning regulations and enforced last September when the conditional-use permit was rejected.

Project boundaries for the most recent application have been scaled back 1,000 feet from surrounding landowners, virtually eliminating the 1,000-foot protest area required to obtain a petition of legal standing. Some of the most ardent opponents of the project now are surrounded by the proposed project, but not officially included in the area to be developed.

In addition to these changes that could be included in this application if the waiver is approved, the company has announced plans to continue pursuit of two other wind farm locations within the county.

"I'm hoping to build all three," said Krista Gordon, Hays Wind project manager. "We still have very, very high hopes for the Hays project, as well as the other two."

Not all Ellis County residents, however, are pleased by these developments.

The application to be discussed Monday is slightly different than the proposal submitted about a year ago. The project area's internal and external boundaries have changed, including additional tracts of land to the south and west of the original project.

The initial site was planned to consist of about 11,000 square feet and more than 130 turbines. The new application stipulates an area of 13,000 square feet and 100 turbines, Gordon said.

This is because a turbine model with a higher generation production and a tip height of 399 feet has been selected, so the 200-megawatt production capacity can be reached with fewer machines, Gordon said.

Last spring, more than 20 tracts of land within the project area were not under easement. Since then, leases have been offered to all landowners, and several have accepted, Gordon said.

According to the most recent map, all but 11 tracts of land in the area are under easement.

Another change to the project, and one that is not unanimously well-received, is that the external and internal project boundaries have been pulled back 1,000 feet.

"By pulling the permit lines back, we gave extra space to the project's neighbors, assuring them that turbines would not be placed within 1,000 feet of their property lines," she said.

When the project came before county commissioners last fall, one dissenting vote by commissioner Perry Henman was all it took to halt proceedings. That was because a valid protest petition had been filed by neighboring landowners.

According to zoning regulations, if 20 percent of the land within 1,000 feet of the area affected by the project application is represented by landowners who have endorsed the document, the permit cannot be granted -- except by a unanimous county commission vote.

By pulling the boundaries back an additional 1,000 feet, the company also is eliminating the possibility of collecting a valid protest petition, said Keith Pfannenstiel, who lives in the proposed project area.

"That was the only tool that opposing residents had," Pfannenstiel said. "All I can tell you is it's just a way around the opposition, that's all it is.

"Basically, there's no change in the project area," he said. "There's nothing to justify a waiver."

When the protest petition was filed with the county clerk last fall, it was determined that more than 40 percent of the surrounding land was represented.

"Commissioners need to require a unanimous vote, or they're just side-stepping the zoning also," Pfannenstiel said. "It was a large portion of the project area that actually opposed this location."

To approve the waiver on the moratorium, however, only a majority vote is needed.

Pfannenstiel also said he is concerned with the current county zoning regulations relating to wind energy, which are being revised by the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission.

"Zoning is far from where it should be. There's no way any wind company has to follow regulations, because we don't have any substantial regulations," he said.

Other changes in the application, which officially will be filed with the Ellis County Environmental office if the moratorium is granted, include plans for the company to pave most of Golf Course Road and a revised decommissioning agreement, Gordon said.

Another project, dubbed the Chetolah Crossing Wind Project, is being pursued in southwestern Ellis County, southeastern Trego County and northwestern Rush County.

The Saline Wind Project is a third location the company hopes to develop north of Ellis, Gordon said.

At a February county commission meeting, Henman made it known he could have land in the area being considered for this particular project.

Gene Bittel, chairman of the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission, also owns land in the area, he said.

"I have not seen a lease agreement," Bittel said. "My understanding is that some of my land might be in that area."

 


Source: http://www.hdnews.net/Story...

MAY 4 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/14784-wind-farm-back-in-the-forefront
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