STANTON — The people who gathered Tuesday night at the Stanton County fairgrounds were there to listen — or to voice their opinions — just like the Stanton County Commissioners asked.
They filled the folding chairs at the community building, and as more people came, some stood at the back.
The public meeting was called by the county board to hear opinions and gather input about potential industrial wind farm development in Stanton County.
The format was set up to be balanced, with a representative from a wind energy company and a representative of the opposition both getting 15 minutes to present their arguments. Then people had an opportunity to offer their comments. There also was an opportunity for people to ask questions from the energy company representative.
The meeting began with Stanton County Commissioner Dennis Kment announcing his conflict of interest because his wife already had signed a lease with a company interested in locating wind turbines on them.
Brice Barton, vice president of development for Tradewind Energy, presented information about how the company handles wind farm projects. Tradewind Energy, which is based in Lenexa, Kan., is the company currently looking at Stanton County as a possible wind farm site.
Barton explained the research process and the zoning regulations the company abides by when developing a wind farm project. He also talked about the decommissioning process of turbines if the project isn't continued. His 15 minutes were up before he could finish his presentation.
Zygmunt Orlowski of rural Stanton represented the opposition. He outlined complaints like lack of transparency from wind energy companies, noise produced by wind turbines, property value loss and effects on wildlife. Aviation, ground disturbance, fire, well water, roads and communication interference were other concerns and issues he raised.
He finished his presentation by demanding a moratorium on wind development activities.
Once those in attendance had the opportunity to speak, about 30 expressed opposition to the Stanton County project, while only about two said they supported it.
Some of the concerns and questions raised were:
— The effects of persistent noise from turbines on people — including low-frequency sound that humans can't hear. This involved a few people who talked about family members with hearing sensitivities.
— The potential seizure risks the persistent noise and possible shadow flicker effect from the turbine blades might pose to epileptic children.
— The rights of landowners and whether they can build on their property if they have turbines on it.
— Fire risk and how turbines might interfere with Life Flight services.
— The damage heavy equipment could do to roads during the construction process.
— The negative impact wind turbines could have on property values.
Some individuals from outside of Stanton County who live where wind farms have been developed also spoke about their personal experiences living near wind turbines and encouraged opposition.
Several people brought notes from studies, and several said they weren't opposed to wind energy, but they didn't want turbines in residential areas in Stanton County. A few people addressed Kment's conflict of interest.
One of the people not opposed said she lives near the smaller wind turbine by Northeast Community College and didn't have any problems with it.
The other person who spoke in favor of wind turbines was a 16-year-old boy from Madison who brought studies and responded to some of the concerns that had been raised.
When everyone had a chance to speak, Commission David Gutshall read questions that had been submitted, and Barton responded to all of them.
Many people requested the issue be placed on a ballot so voters could decide, and Gutshall said the commissioners would discuss that option.