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Watchdog Group, Drafter Say Regulations Are Good

The regulations also have guidelines to follow. Among the guidelines is limiting location. Wind turbines cannot be placed in the following: areas that have potential for biological and/or environmental conflicts, where there are large and intact areas of native vegetation, in places that would interfere with important wildlife movement corridors and staging areas, sites that are readily visible from state-designated scenic byways or popular vistas, sites that require construction activities on steep slopes and sites with potentially sensitive cultural or historical resources.

Margy Stewart says the wind farm issue in Geary County is not dead.

"There has never been a public hearing on whether we want to open the agricultural district this way in the first place," said Stewart, who has spearheaded the "Friends of McDowell Creek" watchdog group for wind farm regulations in Geary County.

Nevertheless, the Geary County Commission unanimously approved wind farm regulations for the county last week. Those regulations allow a special use permit for industrial development of wind farms in agriculturally-zoned areas, set up an application process for developers and rules for them to follow.

Since wind farms are now legal in the county, Stewart can take some solace in the regulations.

"These regulations are stronger than any others I've seen in Kansas," Stewart said.

The owner of the permit (the wind farm developer) and the property owner both must submit requests to Planning and Zoning Department. The zoning administrator then schedules a public hearing with the Metropolitan Planning Commission.

In addition to the public hearing, the MPC and county commission considers an environmental and economic assessment of the project, as well as relevant background and plans for the project.

The regulations also have... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Margy Stewart says the wind farm issue in Geary County is not dead.

"There has never been a public hearing on whether we want to open the agricultural district this way in the first place," said Stewart, who has spearheaded the "Friends of McDowell Creek" watchdog group for wind farm regulations in Geary County.

Nevertheless, the Geary County Commission unanimously approved wind farm regulations for the county last week. Those regulations allow a special use permit for industrial development of wind farms in agriculturally-zoned areas, set up an application process for developers and rules for them to follow.

Since wind farms are now legal in the county, Stewart can take some solace in the regulations.

"These regulations are stronger than any others I've seen in Kansas," Stewart said.

The owner of the permit (the wind farm developer) and the property owner both must submit requests to Planning and Zoning Department. The zoning administrator then schedules a public hearing with the Metropolitan Planning Commission.

In addition to the public hearing, the MPC and county commission considers an environmental and economic assessment of the project, as well as relevant background and plans for the project.

The regulations also have guidelines to follow. Among the guidelines is limiting location. Wind turbines cannot be placed in the following: areas that have potential for biological and/or environmental conflicts, where there are large and intact areas of native vegetation, in places that would interfere with important wildlife movement corridors and staging areas, sites that are readily visible from state-designated scenic byways or popular vistas, sites that require construction activities on steep slopes and sites with potentially sensitive cultural or historical resources.

Also in the regulations is noise control. The regulations say that the noise measured at the property line of the project shall not exceed 55 decibels at any time.

The regulations also call for uniformity. No turbine can exceed 400 feet in height, must all have the same number of rotor blades that are the same size and turn the same direction. Turbines must also be located at similar ground level. The regulations prohibit billboards, logos and advertising signs on the turbines. It also prohibits telecommunication dishes, antennas, cellular telephone repeaters or other similar devices to be attached to the turbines. The regulations require that wind turbines follow Federal Aviation Administration guidelines.

The MPC subcommittee that drafted the regulations reviewed wind farm regulations in other Kansas counties, throughout the nation and world.

Chuck Otte, K-State Research and Extension agent, headed the MPC subcommittee that drafted the regulations. He said he has not had a chance to review the final draft of the regulations passed by the county commission, but if it's close to what the MPC recommended to the commission, he says the regulations are good.

"We're talking about every complex applications," Otte said.

The only major change was reducing the number of days the MPC has to forward its recommendation to the county commission following a public hearing from 120 days to 60 days.

"If that was the only thing changed, we've got some really good regulations," Otte said.

Stewart, although she doesn't agree with wind farms being the Flint Hills, said she agrees.

"There are a lot of regulations there that, if followed closely, make it difficult for an industrial scale wind development," Stewart said.

Stewart is trying to protect the environment, specifically the untouched Tallgrass Prairie. She said the fact that the county is allowing industrial development in agricultural zones is "ominous."

"This allows the zoning to be dismantled," Stewart said.

She said she does see a silver lining to the situation.

"The best thing that's come out of this process is more and more people are aware of their love for the Flint Hills," Stewart said.

Kevin M. Smith can be reached at (785) 762-5000, Ext. 142, or ksmith@dailyu.com


Source: http://www.dailyu.com/Peopl...

JAN 6 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/930-watchdog-group-drafter-say-regulations-are-good
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