County wind farm project moves ahead
By LISA LUCERO,
McPherson Sentinel, Sentinel Staff Writer
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Gamesa's Commercial Wind Energy Project resolution regulations were recently passed at a Board of McPherson County Commissioners meeting.
Gamesa is considering the usage of 8,000 acres in McPherson County for the construction of a wind farm.
Angela Krummel-Buzard, McPherson's planning and zoning administrator, reassured the commissioners of the proper procedures for prescribed burning in case a fire breaks out on the wind farm.
A review of the resolution was needed for further questioning and to discuss two recent changes to the resolution.
Steph Wiley, Gamesa's director of development, said Gamesa has several pending projects. She said the corporation has not made a decision on submitting a conditional-use permit for McPherson County.
Wiley said Gamesa will not submit the permit for the meantime, because it is in the process of evaluating the project.
She said Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado are also being considered for wind farm construction, but no preferred locations have been chosen.
McPherson County is still being considered, but if the corporation does decide to submit a permit, it won't be until 2007.
"We are still very interested in the area," Wiley said.
Krummel-Buzard said the county is not sure whether an application will be permitted. She also said if the corporation decides to submit an application to the Board of McPherson County Commissioners it can also table the decision, which could take three to four months and the construction of the wind farm could be in effect within a year.
According to Wiley, Gamesa must obtain a power purchase agreement if it decides to build a wind farm.
"We have to take in account all the projects we are evaluating," Wiley said.
Planning board adopts four new amendments to wind farm resolution
By LISA LUCERO,
McPherson Sentinel, Sentinel Intern
Thursday, September 25, 2006
During a recent McPherson County Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, four new amendments were adopted for the Gamesa's Commercial Wind Energy Project resolution.
Under Section E, regarding minimum requirements for conditional use permit approval, item No. 15 amendment was reworded to "A certified structural engineer licensed in the state of Kansas, chosen by the applicant, shall conduct all necessary inspections on each turbine. Inspections shall include, but not be limited to, foundation, structural assembly, mechanical and electrical. Documentation regarding each approved inspection shall be submitted to the zoning administrator before advancing to the next step of construction."
The committee decided to include additional information to Section G, regarding decommissioning, restoration and abandonment for item No. 1 under letter AA.
It will now state "Applicant shall submit a decommissioning plan describing the manner in which the CWEP will be dismantled and removed from the site at the end of its useful life.
"All aboveground components of the CWEP shall be removed unless at the landowners request the land is left intact. Foundations shall be removed to the owner's satisfaction unless the landowner allows for the access roads and or foundations to remain."
In Section H, the committee decided to eliminate the last two sentences in letter a under item No. 1. The amendment is now written as "Nothing in this surety agreement or otherwise shall impose any liability or duty whatsoever on McPherson County or any of its agencies."
Angela Krummel-Buzard, planning and zoning administrator, presented to the committee Article 3, Section 108. The new amendment would pertain to property owner wind generators.
After reviewing the section and through considerable debate, the committee decided to delete No. 1. The committee added new information to the section, which now reads as "A. Wind generators, each not exceeding 15 meters in rotator blade diameter, shall be allowed according to Section 105, Paragraph H, Item No. 3 of this article. These shall be deemed to be property owner wind generators and are of smaller scale than commercial turbines." Items No. 2 and 3 remain the same.
Krummel-Buzard presented photos of the turbines owned by PPM Energy Incorporation located in south Butler County. There are 100 turbines at 1.5 megawatts each at the wind farm.
She also said that the whole reasoning behind the visit was to get a different perspective.
According to Krummel-Buzard, the turbines were very slow moving and were set up in rows. The whole area was fenced off with barbwire and gates, located everywhere for easy access to them and there were also access roads. The turbines were assumed to be 400 feet, she said. It also looked very orderly and secured, with no evidence of wildlife destruction."
We couldn't hear them from the road, but you can hear them when you get closer," she said. "They make a kind of a whooshing sound."
Laura Bowers, Delmore Township, said that Geary County regulations to turbines recommends that a cost benefit analysis should be done and that Kansas Department of Wildllife and Parks make a determination.
"I thought it was interesting reading that Butler County did not address any of these issues,” Bowers said. "The board needs to craft these regulations in the best interest of McPherson County residents and not to craft it for the applicant or the representatives."
County wind-farm proposal discussed
By LISA LUCERO,
McPherson Sentinel, Sentinel Intern
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Angela Krummel-Buzard, McPherson planning and zoning administrator, and C. Bickley Foster, a planning consultant, presented a proposal for the resolution pertaining to regulations regarding commercial and energy projects.
The electric wind farm station regulation proposal was discussed during the McPherson County planning board and board of zoning appeals meeting Monday.
The wind farm will be constructed on 8,000 acres of land in McPherson County. Gamesa will be conducting the commercial wind energy project.
The purpose of the meeting was to revise the current resolution and receive public input.
Krummel-Buzard reviewed the regulations by informing the board and the public.
"The McPherson County Commission directed me to do a study with surrounding counties to see what regulations they had in place and what they were doing," she said. "It would give a broad view of what regulations can be applied."
Neil Colle, Delmore, proposed that the McPherson County planning board should adopt a position that is held by the Kansas Renewal Energy Working group and Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
This would mean expanding item No. 14 by including building the wind power facility on previously altered landscapes such as areas of extensive cultivation or urban and industrial development and away from extensive areas of intact native prairies and important wildlife migration areas.
According to Foster, Harper and Butler counties have adopted many of the same regulations.
Krummel said in order to proceed with the construction of the electrical wind farm, the board and Gamesa Energy must get a permit.
The time frame for the project will be extended to a year. The project must meet the conditions of a bond agreement. The surety bond is an incorporated certification to transfer. If the company does fail financially, a bond would recover and bring the negative amount back to a zero.
"Someone will speculate on the turbines and then turn their backs away," said Debbie Devine, an area resident. "I don't think a bond will always be your salvation."
Planning board member Richard Larson was concerned about transmission lines installed above ground and around homes, near the roads and in the middle of pastures. The board agreed that all transmission lines should be installed underground.
Growing concern about noise from the wind farm created considerable debate. A vote for leaving the maximum sound level of 65 decibels out of the resolution occurred. The results of the votes was four members wanting the section left in, while five requested it be left off. The vote would mean residents around the area could file a lawsuit if the sound level is above 65 decibels.
The next meeting regarding the issue is scheduled at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 on the fifth floor of the Bank of America building, 122 W. Marlin, McPherson.
The next meeting regarding the issue is scheduled at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at 122 W. Marlin, McPherson.
Wind farm proposal reviewed
By RHONDA KING,
McPherson Sentinel, Sentinel Intern
Thursday, July 26, 2006
At Tuesday's Board of County Commissioners' meeting, Angela Krummel-Buzard, planning and zoning administrator, presented a memorandum with recommendations regarding the McPherson County zoning regulations for electric wind farm stations for review by the commissioners.
According to the memorandum, "the regulations provide guidance for basic application requirements as well as legal concerns."
Some of the items addressed by the commissioners included the bonding agreement, fire safety, noise and transfer of ownership.
Commissioner Duane Patrick said the bonding agreement should be gone over thoroughly.
Commissioner Harris Terry said that McPherson doesn't have the fire equipment to reach the height of the wind turbines (towers). Krummel-Buzard said high-angle rescue training and additional equipment to contain a fire would be required.
It was agreed that the noise decibel level was acceptable when it was measured at 65 decibels at the property boundaries.
Commissioner Don Schroeder brought up the transfer of ownership to which Krummel-Buzard said that conditions could be added or deleted with a transfer.
A motion to instruct the planning and zoning administrator to take the planning and zoning board meeting for review on Aug. 21 was approved.
In other business:
County extends moratorium on wind farms to end of August
By RHONDA KING,
McPherson Sentinel, Staff Writer
Thursday, July 1, 2006
At a special meeting Friday, the Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution for extending the wind farm moratorium to Aug. 31, 2006. The two-month extension will allow the commissioners time to review new information now available.
Don Schroeder, county commissioner, said that the state had made the moratorium a local issue.
"If it is a local issue, it should generally reflect the ideals or the principles that the county has," he said. "In my opinion, that is why we are reviewing the regulations to see if they are generally what we feel are in line with local ideals." According to a document received at the meeting, the extension will "allow the board's planning and zoning consultant (Bickley Foster) an opportunity to review the current regulations and comprehensive plan as it relates to commercial wind farms."
Angela Krummel, planning and zoning administrator, said a report coordinated between herself and Foster would be ready for the commissioners by Friday, July 7. The report will cover a spectrum of opinions along with recommendations for the county.
During the review process, "the McPherson County Planning and Zoning Department shall not accept nor process applications for conditional use permits in connection with wind turbine electric generating projects.".
County OKs zoning rules to regulate establishment of wind farms in Mac County
By KERRI SNELL,
McPherson Sentinel, Staff Writer
Thursday, November 9, 2005
There are now zoning regulations on the books to regulate the establishment of a commercial wind farm in McPherson County.
A resolution to amend current zoning regulations with additional regulations specifically related to construction and maintenance of a commercial wind farm was approved Tuesday by the Board of McPherson County Commissioners. At Tuesday's meeting, by a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner Harris Terry voting against the motion, the proposed amendments to zoning regulations passed with only one change to the recommended by the McPherson County Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals. Except for one amended change, which allows residents to waive the requirement for a setback of 2,000 feet from any active residence, the proposed amendments were passed without alteration.
Stephen Wiley, project director for Gamesa Energy (the company which has expressed interest in establishing a wind farm in northeast McPherson County) said in a telephone interview that Gamesa is waiting to see if Kansas City Power and Light will award Gamesa a power purchase agreement. Several companies have bid for a power purchase agreement and the announcement was expected to come in October.
Wiley said Gamesa is in the process of finalizing lease agreements for the 8,000 acres in northeast McPherson County for a proposed wind farm, and in process of completing environmental reports pertaining to the proposed project.
Wiley said he is doubtful that Gamesa will file for a conditional use permit from McPherson County before January.
"I would consider them (the amendments to zoning regulations) to be reasonable," Wiley said, "The 2000-foot setback is larger than what we typically work with (500 to 1,000 feet, according to Wiley) but on the other hand, we understand the commissioners' concerns."
While Commissioners Don Schroeder and Duane Patrick seemed ready to move ahead with approval of the amendments as recommended by the zoning and planning board, Terry said several issues still needed attention.
Terry urged commissioners to establish a maximum height for a wind turbine at 400 feet and he pushed for increasing the setback distance from active residences from 2,000 feet to a minimum of one mile.
Schroeder asked, "When is it (the setback distance) a little bit arbitrary, and when is it a lot arbitrary?"
Terry stated that precedent for protecting residents with the distance of one mile was already in county zoning regulations in relation to zoning regulations governing sexually oriented businesses. Terry said he wanted to see the zoning regulations stipulate that no structure over 200 feet would be allowed within three miles of Maxwell Wildlife Refuge or the McPherson County Wetlands or an area within three miles of any area designated as a scenic route.
"These are areas of economic impact," Terry said.
Terry also proposed changing the regulations on sound from a maximum level of 65 decibels measured at the boundary of the conditional use permit property to 55 decibels.
Schroeder and Patrick did not agree to consider the changes proposed by Terry.
"I see the regulations as baseline and the CUP (conditional use permit) as the customization," Schroeder said.
Prior to the vote to approve the resolutions adding the amendments to zoning regulations, Terry moved that commissioners vote that a commercial wind farm does not meet land use requirements of the McPherson County Comprehensive Plan.
"The overall goal of our land use in agriculture is being looked at wrong when we allow a commercial operation into it," Terry said.
He said the state's wind energy siting handbook recommends that wind farms not be located in native grassland areas.
Referring to Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, Terry asked, "Do we want a turbine wind farm in that area? I don't think so because those areas bring people to our county."
Terry's motion to reverse the zoning and planning board's interpretation that a commercial wind farm siting does meet the land use standards in the comprehensive plan was not seconded.
County to study wind farm issue; then vote on it
By KERRI SNELL,
McPherson Sentinel, Staff Writer
Thursday, November 2, 2005
The proposed amendments regarding wind farms in McPherson County are in the hands of the Board of McPherson County Commissioners, where they will stay, without action for at least one more week. Citing the need for time for more in-depth consideration of the issues pertaining to the zoning regulations, commissioners committed that discussion and possible action will be on the agenda of next Tuesday's regular commission meeting.
At the hearing, held Tuesday at the Bank of America Building's fifth floor, the commissioners issued public statements regarding the proposed amendments, beginning with Chairman Don Schroeder, who told those in attendance that the absence of zoning regulations specific to a commercial wind farm would not keep commercial wind farms from locating in the county.
"I've had a couple of people that came to me and have said, ‘Well, we don't want any regulations,' and the comment I made is 'Yes, you do'," Schroeder said. "If we don't have any regulations, the possibility exists that you may not know if there is going to be a wind farm or a wind turbine put in next to you until they move in the heavy equipment and start setting stuff up, and I don't think anybody wants that. We need regulations."
Commissioner Duane Patrick stated he views the proposed amendments to zoning regulations as a "road map to follow."
"We may change or add to whatever is going down the road, we don't know that, if a conditional use permit is issued," Patrick said.
Commissioner Harris Terry voiced his disagreement with the decision by the McPherson County Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals that a proposed commercial wind farm meets with the land uses specified in the county's comprehensive plan.
"We have a very unique county here in McPherson County in very many ways. Economically, with the agricultural, the petroleum, the industry we have in the county, and many others - the flat lands down south, the hill country up north. It is a difficult issue for me - I've got to do the best for McPherson County as a whole and that is what I have tried to do on this issue," Terry said.
"The decisions that McPherson County commissioners make at times can be of very minor impact to some or none at all, or it maybe a short-term impact, but this isn't. This is a major decision and it will have a major impact either way, positive or negative, and it can be a long-term impact, and that's why it is very important that we come up with the right decisions," Terry added.
The major points of interest to commissioners and the public regarding the proposed amendments to zoning regulations concern some of the points of most contention which have plagued the issue since its introduction as a possible reality in northeast McPherson County - noise, property values, property setbacks and decommissioning costs and responsibilities.
The current proposed amendments approved by the McPherson County Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals at the October meeting states that a wind turbine must be at least 2,000 feet from any active residence located off the CUP property.
Terry said that he does not believe 2,000 feet is enough distance and he proposed a distance of a minimum of one mile from any active residence.
Terry proposed that as part of the decommissioning plan, the regulations be amended to state that a commercial wind farm company must provide a cash surety in escrow, to be managed by McPherson County in an amount that would cover decommissioning costs and restoration of the land to its condition prior to the development of a wind farm. Patrick added that he wanted to see an annual review of this account with adjustments made in the amount required for inflation or other unforeseeable costs.
At this point, the proposed amendments state that in order for decommissioning regulations to apply, a commercial wind farm must be deemed "abandoned" as defined in the regulations as "a one-year period of time where the facility does not produce any commercial electrical power and there is no plan demonstrated by the CUP holder to restore or begin commercial electrical power generation."
The only requirement in the current proposed amendments stipulates that the CUP holder (a wind farm company) provide an affidavit certifying that the company is generating commercial electrical power (no amount of power is specified).
Dale Griffith, Union Township, addressed the noise level permitted in the proposed amendments to zoning regulations. Julie Young, Delmore Township, also addressed the noise issue. The proposed amendments state, "The maximum sound level permitted for a WFS shall be 65 decibels measured at the boundary of the CUP property."
Griffith stated zoning regulations from other states and urged county commissioners to adopt a lower level of maximum allowed sound and encouraged commissioners to consider obtaining baseline sound readings from the proposed site before wind turbines would be permitted so that the levels could be accurately monitored.
Young expressed concern over lighting requirements and asked commissioners to amend the proposed regulations to include a requirement that turbines could not be lighted by flashing strobe lights during the night.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Terry asked commissioners to revisit the county's comprehensive plan so that the Board of McPherson County Commissioners could make an independent judgment as to whether locating a commercial wind farm in the county is really in keeping with the county's comprehensive plan.
Patrick sees the issue as a divisive one between farmers and rural people who make their living from the land and persons who live in the country for the quiet, rural atmosphere.
"What can a farmer do with his land?" asked Patrick. "I'd like to study this some more myself. It needs to be good for everybody."
Everyone has an opinion about 'wind farms'
By KERRI SNELL,
McPherson Sentinel, Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 19, 2005
The meeting room was packed with people for Tuesday's Board of McPherson County Commission meeting, and most of the people were there to discuss wind farms.
Rob Manes, Pratt resident and director of the Kansas Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, addressed the wind farm issue from an ecological standpoint.
"The Nature Conservancy both in Kansas and nationally is in favor of wind power development done right. We are in favor of wind power development in areas that are highly fragmented, highly modified areas from an ecological standpoint. We are in favor of wind power development where it doesn't create ecological problems," said Manes.
He said wind power is billed as “an ecological panacea” that will solve the problem of global warming and have a small footprint on the land and cause no problems.
"Second, you will hear that wind power is something that is universally good for the economy and for landowners, and I am hear to tell you that both of those points are open for debate," said Manes.
"McPherson County is richly blessed with wildlife and wild resources and wild places, very nice community, productive farm ground, you've got it all," said Manes. “Wind power poses a threat to one of those major assets."
He said that there are research studies which show that wind power development is detrimental to some of the grassland bird species, not from birds flying into the turbines themselves, but from these grassland birds instinctively choosing not to nest in the grasslands developed into commercial wind farms. He referred commissioners to two studies, one done at Kansas State University and one at South Dakota State University, which he said support this claim.
Commissioner Don Schroeder asked if Manes had considered the environmental impact of other sources of energy such as coal mines.
Manes answered, "The impact of a single wind turbine is enormous, it's like the impact of a coal mine ... Two, they are put up in huge, close-knit arrays ... Three, most of the wind power development potential for this country, according to the American Wind Energy Association, is in the Great Plains, 90-plus percent is right here where we live, and four, the places the wind energy industry is drooling over most are these intact ecological areas like eastern McPherson County ... The trade-off, coal-versus-wind power is not a good one for us because of this known large ecological footprint of wind power." He stated that there are other cropland areas in the county that from an ecological standpoint would be less detrimental to the intact grasslands in the county.
"You hear very little about grasslands because most people don't live here and they are incapable of appreciating the beauty and the value of the prairie ... The single most diminished habitat type in all of North America and the single most threatened cadre of wildlife species in all of North America are grassland species," said Manes.
Calvin Carlson, a real estate agent who resides in Bonaville Township, challenged the studies used by wind energy proponents that support the assertion that construction of a commercial wind farms will not decrease property values. He asked commissioners to change the setback from residences not within the conditional use permit area from 2,000 feet to 5,280 feet, unless a homeowner is willing to sign a waiver. He asked commissioners to stipulate that the Board of McPherson County Commissioners has final approval of location of each and every wind turbine before construction begins, and he asked commissioners to provide for remediation to homeowners in the event their property values are negatively affected by construction of a wind farm.
Resident Maleta Forsberg told commissioners she attended Monday night's zoning meeting and said she was glad she did.
"It's one thing for the members of the board to be convinced that turbines are a good thing for McPherson County, but to refer to Gamesa when you are writing the regs and writing amendments to the regs is another thing and this happened many times," said Forsberg.
Chad Bahr, zoning administrator, said at Monday's meeting that commissioners could take action on the proposed zoning amendments as early as Nov. 1.
Wind farm issue goes to county
By KERRI SNELL,
McPherson Sentinel, Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 18, 2005 12:38 PM CDT
The proposed amendments to zoning regulations regarding commercial wind farms are now in the hands of the Board of McPherson County Commissioners. The McPherson County Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals voted 6-0 (Homer Yowell, Bob Moore and Thelma Everhart were absent) at Monday's meeting to recommend a draft of proposed amendments to zoning regulations for consideration by McPherson county commissioners, which could take place as early as Nov. 1.
Stephen Wiley, project director for Gamesa, and Jeff Houston, attorney for Bremyer and Wise representing Gamesa, were in attendance, as well as several citizens representing both sides of the wind farm issue. Gamesa is the energy company, headquartered in Spain, which is expected to apply for a conditional use permit to construct a wind farm in northeast McPherson County
"Should we have this wind farm in this location isn't before the planning commission yet," said Houston, who said that any discussion of that nature would still be in the "hypothetical" sense.
"But I would like to address some of Gamesa's concerns regarding the proposed regulations so we can craft reasonable regulations for all parties concerned," said Houston.
Proposed wording suggested by Chad Bahr, county zoning administrator, as a possible addition to the draft of proposed amendments that was not adopted as part of the draft which commissioners will consider involved the provision that a wind farm company provide an estimated cost/benefit analysis describing the impact of the project on the local and state economy, much like the process a company would go through to apply for Industrial Revenue Bonds.
"To get an Industrial Revenue Bond, the statute requires us to say whether the cost of waiving all this taxability versus the benefits, the extra jobs you are going to bring in, so make sure that we're getting more than we're giving up, that's what the counties are told from the state under the legislation. This isn't a taxability issue. The State of Kansas and the legislature says, 'County, that is not your decision to make, we've made it and we think the cost of wind farms are greater than the burdens on the tax base so we're taking that off the table by giving them exempt status. My final concern with the cost-benefit analysis though is much more practical. I think it is illegal to do," said Houston, who referred to the case in Butler County where the conditional use permit was reversed in district court because of a payment in lieu of taxes which was made part of the conditional use permit.
"Who (the district judge in Butler County) said 'look, you can't go to the county and agree that you are going to do a payment in lieu of taxes for 'X' number of dollars and then get a conditional use permit,' they actually put it in the conditional use permit itself, because you are buying your permit," said Houston, who said a cost-benefit analysis would be something potentially inappropriate under Kansas law.
A decommissioning plan and requirements were set into place as part of the proposed zoning amendments, however, the decision to decommission as far as the proposed zoning regulations read require an annual affidavit from a wind farm company to the county zoning administrator stating that electrical power (no specified amount) is being generated from the wind farm site. Abandonment for the wind farm site is defined in the proposed amendments as “any one-year period of time where the facility does not produce any commercial electrical power and there is no plan demonstrated by the CUP holder to restore or begin electrical energy generation."
After much discussion on the maximum sound level permitted for a WFS, the proposed amendment keeps the maximum sound level at 65 decibels measured at the boundary of the CUP property. Dale Griffith, Union Township, said that from the research he has done, lower maximum sound levels are used in Europe and in Illinois as related to zoning regulations for wind farms.
"I thought we were here to protect McPherson County residents, not to change things so that it would make it easier for Gamesa to come in and do whatever they wanted to do. I guess that was my thought. You are here to help us as taxpayers and residents to protect McPherson County," said Julie Young. She said a 65-decibel sound level is a lawn mower running non-stop.
"This is non-stop, think of it, non-stop, over and over and over again," she said.
During public comment at the beginning of the meeting, Greg Goering, McPherson County Farm Bureau Association, read a letter in support of wind energy in the state of Kansas.
"Renewable energy should be a vital part of our future," said Goering. He said Kansas ranks No. 3 in the nation as an area with wind patterns conducive to wind energy generation.
In approval of last month's minutes, Doris Ridge suggested that all direct quotes be taken out of the minutes, and with that change and other changes regarding wording in the minutes, the minutes were approved.
Wind farm opponents back at county seeking action
By KERRI SNELL, Sentinel Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 12, 2005
Three McPherson County citizens concerned about a proposed wind farm in northern McPherson County addressed commissioners at Tuesday's meeting of the Board of McPherson County Commissioners, asking that commissioners respond to the abundance of litigation across the nation regarding wind farm construction, and devise a "protection plan" to ensure citizens of the county are protected from alleged health, environmental and financial damages.
Pat Weibert, Bonaville Township, handed commissioners four documents she defined as a "protection plan" with a signature line on each document for "Gamesa Energia or any Subsidiaries," "Eagle Rock Landowners Association," "Future Turbine Company" and "Any Future Landowner."
The documents to be signed agree to reimburse a livestock owner for any decrease in livestock performance caused by the presence of wind turbines, to reimburse property owners for any decrease in value of private property that is directly attributed to location of a wind farm, and to reimburse residents for any and all expenses directly attributed to health issues caused by the establishment of a wind farm. The fourth document states that ”anyone voting on zoning regulation changes or adopting changes in favor of wind farms is asked to sign an agreement not to erect wind turbines on their property because of conflict of interest or to excuse themselves from voting on these changes."
"We understand and know these are not legally binding, but because of potential problems that could happen, we feel the only protection we have is from our county commissioners," said Weibert.
Commissioner Don Schroeder said that to his knowledge no one on the zoning and planning board or the board of commissioners has a conflict of interest with the wind turbine issue.
"The potential. Naturally, if the wind turbines would go in on the regs, they could have the possibility of going anywhere that lines could be built,“ said Wiebert. ”This is really just a ballpark thing we are submitting to you as a back-up protection plan."
"They (proponents of the proposed wind farm in McPherson County) have said over and over there should be no problems, none of these issues will happen, and if that is true, they shouldn't have a problem signing a document,“ said Wiebert.
"Signing an open-ended document is probably not something that most people or businesses will do," said Schroeder.
Deb Colle, Delmore Township, presented commissioners with a copy of an AFX News article she accessed from Forbes.com dated Sept. 20, 2005, which states that ”Gamesa Corporacion Tecnologica SA“ is seeking a buyer for its wind farm maintenance unit, Gamesa Energy Services. According to the AFX News article, ”Gamesa said the divestment is part of the group's plan to focus on its renewable energy manufacturing and sales activities, for which the services unit is not necessary."
"It shows that Gamesa is not interested in the service end of wind energy, and you know, make of it what you will. Just keep in mind there are 104 families that are going to be affected if this goes in, and we all want what's best for them," said Colle.
Wiebert also presented copies of an excerpt from the Audubon of Kansas website, highlighting comments from the article, "Wind Development needs Proper Siting Protocols."
"The most disappointing aspect of this issue has been an absence of political and governmental leadership in the State of Kansas to establish planning and siting protocols for windpower development. Tragically, the State of Kansas has abdicated all authority. Thus there are no formal guidelines to establish common ground for developers and residents" ... stated the article.
Audubon of Kansas has agreed to participate in litigation efforts to block the construction of wind farms in the state.
An excerpt from the Audubon of Kansas web site reads, "Our decision to participate in the lawsuit was based in part on the fact that federal funds (a direct tax credit subsidy of $100 million) will be used to drastically alter 8,000 acres of intact prairie landscape, fragment and degrade prairie habitat, present a hazard for birdlife, and diminish other values associated with the landscape for miles in every direction surrounding this site."
Area residents object to the manner in which planners handled input
By KERRI SNELL, Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 21, 2005 1:56 PM CDT
The Board of County Commissioners at Tuesday's commission meeting heard from several persons who voiced concerns about the manner in which the McPherson County Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals handled public input at Monday night's meeting in which the board voted to recommend proposed zoning amendments regarding wind farms for approval by commissioners.
Larry Weibert, Bonaville Township, told commissioners that persons opposed to the proposed wind farm who made their presentations to the zoning board at Monday's meeting were interrupted many times by Billy Hudson, chairman of the planning and zoning board.
"I counted up to five times one person being interrupted when they made their presentation, however when those for the turbines spoke, there were no interruptions. I am concerned about that. I think it is an open meeting and it bothers me that it is conducted in that manner," said Wiebert.
Kathy Malm, Lindsborg, supported the point made by Weibert, stating, "I have sat through my share of meetings before and I have never seen quite the laughingstock that that meeting was. It's obvious how most of the planning and zoning board feels on this matter already," said Malm. She said that on two occasions two members of the zoning board have made reference at the public meeting to how decisions regarding the zoning regulations for wind turbines (specifically setback distance from residences) might preclude them from getting a turbine on their own properties. She brought up that there might be a legal issue of conflict of interest with some of the zoning and planning board members because of the public comments made at the meetings.
"They do need to disclose their interest if they have an interest in making a project pass," said Malm.
"When the lawyer for Gamesa was speaking he was not interrupted one time. When our lawyer was speaking, I stopped counting at five. And it was not interrupting with a question. It was not professional at all in my opinion," said Malm.
Pat Weibert, Bonaville Township, presented commissioners with a map of the proposed wind farm, documenting the number of homes and people that would be affected by moving forward with the wind farm.
"There are 104 home sites in a three-mile radius and many more beyond that, unlike Butler County, which has I think, five or six, and we know Montezuma has very few and they only have 5,900 people in their whole county," she said.
Julie Young, Delmore Township, asked commissioners to produce documentation of the sources and process of research the zoning board utilized in moving ahead so quickly with decisions to recommend proposed zoning amendments and in finding that the county's comprehensive plan would support a wind farm.
"We had some proposed regulations back in April, it was rough at that point and time," said Commissioner Don Schroeder. Each member of the board obviously has the comprehensive plan and they can read and study it at home and it's not something they have to get together and do," said Schroeder.
Maleta Forsberg, Bonaville Township, asked commissioners to consider the negative impact of imposing wind turbines on the natural prairie. She and her husband purchased a farmstead and built a home 33 years ago and restored an old school house on their property.
"My fear is that the wind farm and all the construction, the stress on the Smoky Valley Road. it is very fragile. The tons of concrete, the destruction of the ground water and the environmental changes that will occur to the area forever, will have a very negative impact on the people who cherish this place as a place to live and work," said Forsberg.
She said that in Spain, over 11,000 birds of prey are reported killed by the wind turbines every year. She said other countries in Europe are canceling plans to build wind farms, and that countries such as Germany and Switzerland are cutting the tax breaks given to wind power companies, which will result in consumers paying higher prices for wind energy.
"I am not a scientist, I am an artist who has painted the beauty of this wonderful place and has shared the experience with many people. The lush pasture land, the spring-fed ponds, and wildflowers, the wildlifeŠ I can't believe the benefit of building these monstrous wind turbines can possibly outweigh the damage that it will do to the quality of life in McPherson County," she said.Wind farm issue advances
Wind farm issue advances
By KERRI SNELL, McPherson Sentinel Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 20, 2005 12:47 PM CDT
In the span of one short month, the McPherson County Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals has gone from a recommendation of a moratorium on consideration of any application from a wind power company to setting a hearing date for consideration of amendments to zoning regulations pertaining to a proposed wind farm.
The Planning and Zoning Board reviewed proposed changes from a Sept. 9 memo distributed by Chad Bahr, county zoning administrator, to the board and discussed those proposed changes during Monday's meeting prior to unanimously approving a recommendation that commissioners adopt the proposed amendment changes as part of the county zoning regulations. Bahr said an Oct. 17 hearing date would be set.
Stephen Wiley and David Gonzales, representatives from Gamesa, the company proposing to construct a wind farm in northeast McPherson County, were in attendance. Wiley provided the board with information regarding the issue of required setback of the turbines from residences.
"If you were to place a restriction that we have to be 2,000 feet away (from residences), you are eliminating a huge piece of property. It would force us to have to lease far more land than we had planned," said Wiley.
During public input, two attorneys discussed the issue of whether the existing comprehensive plan would allow for a wind farm in McPherson County.
David Harger, a local attorney representing Gamesa Energy, spoke to the board regarding the comprehensive plan.
He addressed the "land use goals" as set forth in the plan, stating that land use goal No. 1 reads "to maintain the unincorporated area for primary land uses."
"In McPherson County, primary land uses include agricultural, mining and extraction of oil and natural gas. I think that a wind farm fits quite well into that land use," said Harger.
He said he believed the environmental goals as stated in the comprehensive plan support the concept of a wind farm operation in the county.
"Clean, generating power is something that fits well within that stated goal within the comprehensive plan," said Harger.
Harger said one goal of the county's comprehensive plan is to promote primary economic land use, which Harger defined according to the plan as "direct extraction of a useful product from the physical environment."
"I would submit to the commission that a wind farm is exactly that, a wind farm, in fact in a clean way, takes advantage of a natural element that we have here in McPherson County and develops a useful product out of a primary economic land use," Harger said.
Harger said farmers would still be able to use the surrounding land for farming purposes, another way in which a wind farm conceptually fits with the goals of the county's comprehensive plan.
Pat Hughes, a Wichita attorney who has been involved in several cases related to wind farms, including cases in Butler and Riley counties, then addressed the board.
"I am here tonight on behalf of a group of property owners in McPherson County who are concerned about the industrialization of the rural areas of the county," said Hughes.
"What is it we have agreed to in the comprehensive plan about what our values are and how does that agreement relate to the wind turbines that are proposed and the industrial facilities that we are talking about?" questioned Hughes.
"Looking at the comprehensive plan and the zoning regulations, I think it is fairly clear that industrial wind turbines in rural areas aren't consistent with what you have agreed the citizens of McPherson County can expect from their zoning regulations," Hughes said, and was at that point interrupted by Billy Hudson, chairman of the zoning and planning board, who asked, "Is there some special meaning to the word, 'industrial?'"
Hughes said that land uses are clearly defined according to law.
"We are talking about scores of individual structures. Each structure is perhaps as tall as the tallest building in Kansas. Not one, like a cell tower, maybe 50, maybe 100, maybe more than that...We're talking about these structures that have a nacelle that generates electricity. The nacelle is roughly the size of a locomotive. The blades have a span that is greater than the wing span of a 747," said Hughes.
Hudson told Hughes he was deviating from the scope of discussion allowed.
"To promote a desirable rural atmosphere in character and appearance. That goal is incompatible with the building of hundreds of"
Hudson interjected, "That is also incompatible with farming. You ask a person who lives next to a farm. It's in conflict with oil wells, it's in conflict with cell towers, it's in conflict with many things. As a rule though for primary land use, it is judged to not be a serious conflict."
Hughes then brought up the infrastructure stresses that would be placed on county roads, with no taxes paid by the wind energy company to offset those expenses. In addition to the attorneys, several members of the community addressed the board.
Candace Lundberg, McPherson Township, said that it was brought to her attention that only three landowners would benefit from lease payments from Gamesa.
Ben Houghton, Bonaville Township, told the board that an amendment to zoning regulations should be added to disallow any corporation to establish a business in the county unless they pay taxes or can show economic benefit that equals the taxes that should be paid.
The board voted 5-1 to approve a motion stating that the land use of a wind farm is supported in the language of the county's comprehensive plan. Homer Yowell voted against the motion.
After voting to recommend the adoption of the proposed amendment changes to zoning regulations, Bob Moore said, "I would like to talk about the roads and bridges and money in lieu of taxes."
"I don't think we need to talk about money in lieu of taxes for legal reasons," said Hudson.
Bahr may have summed up the chaos of the issue best when he described the issue of wind turbines in McPherson County as "B.Z.-Beyond Zoning."
Wind farm issue continues to bring public comments
By KERRI SNELL, McPherson Sentinel, September 15, 2005.
One person showed up for public input at Tuesday's Board of McPherson County Commissioners meeting to voice a negative opinion of wind farms. Darlene Bloomberg, whose land borders McPherson County in Saline County, section 32, told commissioners that wind turbines are harmful to wildlife, particularly birds. She said that according to an article in "The American Free Press" of which she is a subscriber, wind turbines are threatening bird populations.
"Clean burning it may be, non-polluting it isn't. What the public is largely unaware of is that thousands of birds are already flying into these things, killing them. Dismembered birds have been scattered all over the landscape," Bloomberg quoted an article from "The American Free Press."
"We don't have near the birds we had before, and then these wind turbines get up there and we lose more of our birds," said Bloomberg.
"When you are thinking about these wind turbines, you need to consider who lives beside them," said Bloomberg, "Many people who are getting the turbines on
She also pointed out her concerns that wind turbines emit
extremely low frequencies (ELF's) which according to Bloomberg, could cause health
problems such as migraines, hypertension, miscarriages, decreased immune
system, leukemia, brain cancer and other cancers.
Public input dominated by wind farm issues
KERRI SNELL, McPherson Sentinel, August 24, 2005
Thiel alluded again to the fact that the county can expect to receive a payment of approximately $300,000 a year "in lieu of taxes" to pay for road maintenance and for use by the county for schools and other county improvements.
Thiel again presented his information as to why wind energy is an economically competitive source of energy that is healthier environmentally than coal, nuclear, natural gas or oil.
"One more point and then I will stop. It has been said that wind towers are ugly. I think they look clean and scientific. What I think is ugly is a big, two-story house built on top of our sub-plotted, pristine, pasture land. But I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In Holland, the big wind mills are considered a tourist draw. I think our wind turbines will be a tourist draw, just like they are at the Gray County installation in Montezuma," said Thiel.
Larry Weibert, Bonaville Township, addressed commissioners with concerns.
"My neighbors and myself just continue to have concerns about wind turbines...Federal law has changed and utilities are not required to buy power from renewable sources, the company from Missouri signed a contract to purchase power from the Elk River wind facility before the requirement was dropped. I think that was their mistake. So why are we being put through all this turmoil? Wouldn't the easiest and best thing for McPherson County to do is to simply not use this wind power? The land is not compatible as I understand it or (the proposed use) with the standards of the McPherson County comprehensive plan and I just wonder who stands to benefit from all this going through with the wind power?" asked Weibert.
"I'm more concerned with the fact that we have a beautiful county. We don't need 300- to 450-foot wind towers across an entire area, which, you let it in, it's a 'Pandora's Box,' it's going to move. It's going to go across Lindsborg and it's going to go down along the power lines on the other side of McPherson. I can almost swear it will do that. And if that's what you guys want and you think it's really good for McPherson even though they pay no property taxes, the $300,000 they bring up to me is a bribe. If you want a pay-off, have a company pay off the county and that's what we're worth...except to me, I believe that's a bribe and I don't like the thought of it that this is all we are worth is $300,000," said Julie Young, Bonaville Township.
Board Chairman Don Schroeder thanked the public for the comments, emphasizing that the county has declared a moratorium on considering any applications for wind farms so that time can be taken for consideration of the issue.
County OKs proposal for 6-month moratorium on wind turbines
By CHERYL TSCHUDIN, McPherson Sentinel, August 17, 2005
A resolution declaring a moratorium upon the acceptance of applications for conditional use permits in connection with wind turbine electric generating projects was approved by the Board of McPherson County Commissioners on Tuesday. A recommendation for adoption of the resolution was brought by Chad Bahr, county planning and zoning administrator, in regards to action taken at a meeting of the McPherson County Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals on Monday night.
The resolution became effective with the signatures of the commissioners Tuesday and provides for a period of 180 days for the McPherson County Planning and Zoning Administrator to refrain from accepting or processing any applications for conditional use permits for wind farms in the county. The resolution instructs the board to review the current zoning regulations and review such projects, including the impact, if any, that they might have on nearby properties.
It is also directed to determine whether such projects should be prohibited or allowed in the county. If it is decided to allow them, then the planning and zoning administrator is directed to prepare a listing of criteria to be considered by the board and the commissioners in connection with the review of any future applications for such projects and to recommend any zoning changes or conditions which might be appropriate to minimize the impact on the surrounding properties, to provide assurance for the removal of all improvements associated with such projects at the conclusion of their useful life and to propose any other conditions, limitations and amendments to the McPherson County Zoning Regulations in regards to such projects.
Bahr told commissioners that the potential applicant for a wind farm in northeastern McPherson County (Gamesa) had originally projected a fall deadline for application, however company officials have changed their deadline to December. Commissioner Harris Terry, in support of the moratorium, noted that he felt it would be better to have regulations in place before accepting any applications.
"This seems to have created a lot of division among the agricultural community," said Commissioner Don Schroeder. "We need to be able to take some more time to consider it." He also suggested that the planning and zoning board consider drafting some type of county, catch-all policy to provide for the immediate refusal of any similar applications which might happen in the future in order to provide for time for such issues to be studied properly.
During the public input session, two members of the public voiced opinions related to the previous night's meeting. Pat Weibert, Bonaville Township, related that the previous night's meeting had disheartened her in regard to seeing neighbors pitted against neighbors over this issue.
"In my heart I just wanted to say let's not hate each other over this," she said. "The zoning board says they don't know how to set the regulations and who knows how these companies will work -- they are foreign. They may just walk away when they're done, having destroyed the beauty, leaving the physical damage done and the landowners left with clean up." She noted that according to a (unscientific) poll taken on the county web site, 87 percent of the county residents recorded were against the wind farm project and only 13 percent were for it.
Deb Colle, a resident of Delmore Township, offered a word of caution to commissioners, stating that all citizens need to be protected.
"Ninety-five percent of the people in favor don't live on the land and won't be affected. It is the people who have homes here and will have to look at these 450-foot towers that will suffer," she said. She alluded that many of the people who are signing leases are not really aware of what is going on. She stated that there is a lot that needs to be looked at, urging commissioners to do extensive research.
"This is not necessarily the best thing for us," she said.
Moratorium on wind farm issue to be recommended
By KERRI SNELL, McPherson Sentinel, August 16, 2005
The McPherson County Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals passed a motion at its Monday meeting to recommend to the Board of McPherson County Commissioners "the adoption of a moratorium to not allow the review, consideration or development of (a commercial wind farm) until after the county has had sufficient time to review the topic."
The motion passed with an amendment to set a time limit on the moratorium of a period of six months.
"A moratorium would give the county and the citizenry time to consider the issueäSome would say it is a stall tactic, but I don't feel that it is," said Chad Bahr, county planning and zoning administrator.
Just prior to this motion, in a five-to-four vote, the board members voted that the current regulations do allow for a wind farm company, such as Gamesa Energy, which has expressed interest in constructing a wind farm in northeastern McPherson County, to apply for a conditional use permit in an A-1 (agriculture) zoned area.
Ken Hedberg raised the question of whether the county could pass a moratorium on the consideration of a conditional use permit after the zoning board just voted that application for a CUP for this land use in an agricultural area is permitted in the current zoning regulations.
There was discussion on whether a time limit should be placed on the moratorium and whether the timing of such an action might impact Gamesa's timeline for application for such a permit. Bahr said that his latest conversations with Gamesa indicate that the company will not apply for a conditional use permit before December.
"Gamesa's time could move up, but they aren't the only people around. I talked to people in Butler County and they said at one time they had four separate applications going for four separate locations. I'm not saying that is likely. No one has contacted me about that," said Bahr.
From the moratorium action, zoning board members pulled out drafts of proposed amendment changes dated April 21, the latest working draft compiled by the zoning and planning board.
The zoning board discussed proposed changes to distance of a wind farm from an "active residence." Eileen Patrick, proponent for wind farms in the county, suggested to commissioners that regulations should require a set-back from a residence of 2,500 feet.
Billy Hudson, chair of the zoning board, stated concern that regulating too much distance between wind farms and property lines, roads and residences, would preclude some county citizens from the opportunity of having a wind turbine on their property.
One citizen asked the zoning board to consider forming an adhoc committee, comprised of zoning board members, proponents and opponents of the issue, and representatives from Gamesa in order to address the issues from all sides. She said that she had in her hand a copy of Bahr's April 15 phone log which documents his phone conversation with a Gamesa representative.
"The board received the very first copy of the proposed amendments, then Chad had the conversation with Gamesa with what they wanted in the regs. Then No. 3 came along, which is the document you are working on right now. In essence, if you compare those documents, everything Gamesa suggested has been changed into what they wanted to do," she said.
Hudson asked those in attendance if they could have a wind turbine on their property, would they care so much about the issue of distance to their residence?
A member of the audience at that point stood up and stated, "It appears you are trying to make decisions and most of you haven't taken the time to read about this issue. It behooves the board to take a look at this."
At the beginning of the meeting, the board heard from Duane Thiel, president of the Eagle Rock Landowners Association, who told the board that if the proposal for the wind farm goes through, he will likely get a tower on his land.
"I'm pretty proud of that land," stated Thiel, "I like to refer to it as 'Dances With Wolves' land." I'd like to think I am a fairly good steward of that land."
Eileen Patrick, landowner in Bonaville Township, also spoke in favor of the proposed wind farm.
She pointed out four major controversial issues related to the wind farm issue - noise and lights, taxation, property values and change.
"The world hates change yet it is the only thing that has brought us progress," said Patrick.
Patrick highlighted information from a visit she and her husband made to the Montezuma Wind Farm in Gray County.
"Also as a part of our research on this Gray County project and Montezuma, we learned that the county receives a payment in lieu of taxes in excess of $300,000 a year. This money is used for schools and it pays for road maintenance. In our discussion with Gamesa, we asked if they expect to make a similar payment to our county and they replied that they expect to pay their fair share and therefore would have a similar payment to our county, and we plan to make this an item in our negotiations with Gamesa," stated Patrick.
The board adjourned after allowing a speaker to present information on solar energy.
Anderson predicts declining interest in wind energy
By CHERYL TSCHUDIN, McPherson Sentinel News Editor
Tuesday, August 9, 2005
With wind energy such a divisive topic in the county at the moment, Rick Anderson, Board of Public Utilities general manager, took a moment to editorialize during his weekly report to the Board of County Commissioners Monday.
"My guess is that because the renewable portfolio standard was stricken from the energy bill, which was passed by the House and Senate and is to be passed on to the president for signing today, (Monday) there is less likely to be the demand for wind energy. Without that forced market, the need for wind turbines will drop significantly and we won't see a huge influx of them into the county," he said. "If energy companies aren't forced to purchase the renewable energy, they won't."
Anderson noted that since there always will be some customers who would like to use the renewable source of energy no matter what the cost, he has made an inquiry to Westar Energy as to whether some wind energy might be purchased for those who would like to use it. It was indicated there would be, but at a significantly higher cost. Because wind energy is utilized by the turbines only about one-third of the time and a backup fuel is needed during the remaining time, the energy produced costs about three times more, Anderson said.
Anderson also related that because he thought the public might be interested, he had requested a map illustrating a study of wind velocities measured throughout the surrounding counties in the state. The map indicates both the power transmission lines currently present and the measured wind velocities. Favorable winds, the lines for transmitting the energy and a market for the renewable energy all are necessary to make wind production profitable, he said. Interestingly enough, though the transmission lines are there, the study showed that wind velocities measured in the northern section of McPherson County are not necessarily favorable toward the production of such energy. The map will be available for public viewing at the McPherson County Courthouse.
He also noted that testing for lead and copper in the city's water supply has been a recent activity and he was pleased to announce that none of the samples tested indicated contamination levels above allowable levels.
"Our water supply is in good shape," he said.
Effect of proposed wind farm on county: Opposed to wind farm
By KERRI SNELL, McPherson Sentinel, Sentinel Staff Writer, August 05, 2005
While no one can seem to agree on whether the impact of a proposed wind farm in McPherson County will be positive or negative, one fact which has become crystal clear is that these turbines, while circulating the famous Kansas wind, have a polarizing affect on the populace.
Julie Young and Deb Colle, whose homes are located in Delmore Township, live on land that would be adjacent to the proposed wind farm if the turbines end up being placed in the locations Gamesa Energy has shown interest in. Young says the view from her front porch - rolling hills and a serene horizon - would be replaced by the sight of towers with turbines turning. They believe their land, zoned for agricultural use, would in fact be converted to a place for industrial machines, setting a negative precedent for other operations which might request a conditional use permit from the county.
"We are setting a precedent for this county," said Colle. "These things (wind farms) are industrial and these things always grow."
A concern that runs even deeper in the county citizens whose feelings these women agreed to represent to the media, is that a decision to allow construction of a wind farm on up to 8,000 acres of McPherson County land is a long-term decision which will thwart the further growth and development of this area, and end up detracting from the county's and city's ability to attract other business and industry and the professionals who will choose not to live here.
"In the April 2004 issue of Progressive Farmer, McPherson County was listed as one of the best places to live in rural America. Take a drive out to Bonaville Township and Delmore Township and you will see that people are moving out to the country and have built many beautiful homes to take advantage of the unspoiled landscape. If asked, not one of these people will say, 'I built this home in hope that a wind turbine facility would be placed within sight and sound of my property,'" stated Colle in a report to the county commissioners and zoning board.
Glenn R. Schleede, an energy consultant who is noted for opposing wind energy and wind energy initiatives and author of a lengthy article which criticized the Kansas Energy Council for its 2005 report, states that tax breaks provide 2/3 of a wind project's value, and that tax shelters are the true incentives for large energy companies to seek to develop wind farms in the state of Kansas.
"Current government policies distort capital investments and transfer wealth from ordinary taxpayers and electric customers to a few big 'wind farm' owners," writes Schleede, who continues that these tax breaks and subsidies have "permitted wind farm-owning companies, using relatively little of their own equity (which they can recapture quickly) to determine where hundreds of millions of dollars are invested - and to spend that money on wind energy facilities that produce small amounts of electricity that has relatively low real value."
If the wind farm is constructed in McPherson County, the towers will be tax exempt by state statute.
Colle and Young are concerned that the wind farm will bring down the market value of the homes located on or near the proposed wind farm, thus lowering the values of the county's assessed value, while a company such as Gamesa operates its wind farm tax-free.
"It is rather like killing the goose that lays the golden egg to destroy the value of a taxpayer's home just so a few landowners, most of whom do not live on the land, can earn extra money by leasing to Gamesa who will be exempt from property tax at both the state and local level," stated Colle.
While Stephen Wiley, Gamesa project developer, offered his own studies of what a wind farm will do to property values, Young and Colle have presented evidence of their own. All evidence of how property values are affected by location on or near a wind farm must be carefully analyzed.
"The value of a home is affected by many, different factors," said Dianna Carter, McPherson County appraiser, who stated that her office does not have any statistical analysis on this issue from within Kansas. There has only been one sale on record in Gray County to date and all the other wind farm sites in Kansas are either still in the construction phase or in the proposal phase, as is McPherson County.
Colle and Young cited several studies, which they submitted will support the claim that property values are negatively affected by location of a wind farm nearby. Stephen Wiley stated that whether or not a wind farm raises the value of the land that the turbines are located on or near is often times open to the interpretation of the assessor.
If agricultural land is rezoned as industrial in areas such as Kern County, California, then land values may indeed rise, but that does not necessarily mean the homes located on that land have appreciated in value or have become more marketable places to live.
Colle and Young voiced other concerns as well, including health concerns and problems with noise, lights and motion of the turbines. They have acquired letters to the editor from newspapers, and spoken with persons on the phone who according to their report submitted to commissioners, are bothered by the noise and lights and motion.
"I compare the noise to Chinese water torture or fingernails on a chalkboard or water dripping in a pan. Even on the calmest summer nights, the endless drumming goes on - windows closed, pillows over the head - it is inescapable," wrote Linda Cooper, president of Citizens for Responsible Wind Power Inc., Morgantown, W. Va.
"It is interesting to note, says Colle, "that one of the ploys used by the wind energy companies to support their 'no noise' claim is to say you can stand right under the turbine and there is hardly a sound. This is true, mainly because the sound power level (the base of the turbine) is entirely different from the sound pressure level, 3,000 feet way from the turbine."
Colle and Young say county residents who oppose the wind farm want commissioners seriously to consider the impact of these turbines, which will rise 300 feet into the air and which stand on a concrete base foundation that goes 35 to 40 feet deep. They said that their research has afforded them cases in which decommissioning costs for one turbine cost over $300,000.
The Youngs built their home on 19th Avenue 10 years ago, moving from North Carolina. Previously, the Youngs owned land and lived in some of the most pristine property in southern California.
I don't think there is anything to compare with living in the country," said Young.
"It's peace," said Colle.
"This (actively opposing the wind farm) is not just for me, I am fighting this for everybody. Yes, those of us who live nearest the wind farm are going to be hit the hardest, but this is going to affect all of us," said Young.
Effect of proposed wind farm on county: In favor of wind farm
By KERRI SNELL, McPherson Sentinel Sentinel Staff Writer August 05, 2005
Stephen Wiley, lead project developer for Gamesa Energy, highlighted by phone interview the major "positives" to a community or county for allowing a wind farm to be constructed and operated.
"This is great because farmers and ranchers can still use the land as previously used," said Wiley, "and they spend this money (lease money) at stores and businesses within the community."
Initial plans for a Gamesa wind farm in McPherson County would involve leasing up to 8,000 acres for development of the wind farm.
Wiley said Gamesa is planning on constructing 50 towers, each 300 feet high, with each turbine producing two megawatts of electricity. He stated the turbines would be manufactured in the United States at a new Gamesa Energy plant outside of Philadelphia. Wiley stated that Gamesa is planning to construct 50 turbines, on the proposed wind farm initially, with about a one tower per every 50 acres ratio.
He stated that if Gamesa is allowed into the county, the company plans a long-term relationship, in his words, "30 years," which would mean that wind farm technology, which continues to be developed, would have to be applied to any turbines constructed in 2005. Wiley explained that the turbines that would be constructed in McPherson County could be "retrofitted" for the four- to five-megawatt turbines of the future.
As to whether or not Gamesa plans to expand the wind farm to include more than the 50 turbines planned initially, Wiley said that this is entirely dependent on market conditions for wind energy in the future.
"If the utility company (that Gamesa would be in contract with) requested more power, and if it made sense, then we would possibly do it (expand). The acreage we are seeking would certainly allow for that," said Wiley, "At this point we are looking at a 100- to 150-megawatt wind farm."
Wiley stated that much of the concern over noise and problems with wind farms stems from persons who have had experience with or visited or looked at photographs of the older wind farms.
"The latest generation of wind farms produces a lot more power. You don't see nearly the number of towers," said Wiley. "Wind farm technology has revolutionized within the last five years." Wiley then pointed out the jobs that would be created during the construction phase of a wind farm. For the six months to one year, Wiley said the construction phase would last, he estimated that 70 to 80 jobs would be created.
"These workers all eat in the local restaurants and hotels, and local suppliers would get the opportunity to bid for jobs, such as concrete," said Wiley.
Wiley said six to 10 permanent jobs would be created for maintenance and technical support of the wind farm.
"These are fairly technical, good-paying jobs and we would try to hire from the local community," said Wiley.
Gamesa has written a "fact sheet" in which the company provides information some of the concerns and fears associated with wind farms.
"Studies show that from 500 feet away, the noise level is 40 to 50 decibels. A refrigerator runs at 40 decibels. That shows you how quiet these things are. If the wind is blowing, you can't hear them," said Wiley.
The Federal Aviation Administration recommends that all structures over 200 feet are lighted to ensure aviation safety. Gamesa's fact sheet states, "The wind industry is working with FAA to test safe and non-intrusive lighting plans for wind farms."
Related to lighting is the problem of "shadow flicker," which happens when rotating turbine blades come between the viewer and the sun, causing a moving shadow. Gamesa's fact sheet states, "Shadow flicker is almost never a problem near new wind farms, and in the few cases where it could be, it is easily avoided." The fact sheet states that for some homes located close to a wind turbine, shadow flicker can occur and can be annoying when trying to watch television or read. According to the fact sheet, there are methods of determining where this problem can occur and the problem can be avoided by planting trees or allowing an appropriate setback from the turbine.
The fact sheet states that improving a receiver's antenna or installing relays to transmit the signal around a wind farm solves this problem.
Wiley suggested persons in McPherson County should read two studies, one conducted by researchers from the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) and one from ECONorthwest, a group of consultants hired to analyze the "Economic Impacts of Wind Power in Kittitas County." Both of these reports conclude that views of wind farms do not have negative impact on property values. Wiley agreed that it is difficult to compare Kansas real estate trends and markets with other areas in the United States.
For persons wanting to visit a wind farm that will most closely resemble what is planned for McPherson County, Wiley suggested visits to the Weatherford, Okla., wind farm or the one that is being constructed in Butler County.
As to Glenn Schleede's criticism of wind power and the 2005 Kansas Energy Council report, Wiley stated of Schleede, "He provides a lot of misinformation, however, he writes it very well." Wiley pointed to the professional bias of Schleede, stating that he was a past vice president in the coal industry.
In answer the concern that current tax structures are paving the way for huge, international companies to sweep into rural Kansas and reap huge profits from wind farms, Wiley said, "We are the ones putting our capital up for risk. If you look at the risk-return perspective, if you have more at risk, you should be earning a higher return."
Wiley also addressed concerns related to decommissioning costs. He said in the individual lease contracts with landowners, these issues will be addressed to the satisfaction of the landowners.
"Gamesa is one of the largest companies in Spain. The odds that Gamesa will not live up to its part of the bargain is very small," said Wiley.
Zoning board struggles with wind farm issues
By KERRI SNELL, McPherson Sentinel Sentinel Staff Writer, August 03, 2005
The possibility of hundreds of 300-feet high wind turbines stretching across 8,000 acres of McPherson County's prime agricultural land presents new challenges from a county planning and zoning perspective.
The McPherson County Planning and Zoning Board has been in the process of developing proposed amendments to the county's current zoning regulations to include language which provides guidelines as to how McPherson County will regulate the development of and management of a wind farm.
Gamesa Energy approached the county with specific interest in development of a wind farm between January and March 2005. Kansas has become a prime target of companies specializing in wind energy because of the state's wind profile (studies rank Kansas in the top five in wind power potential in the United States), and because of favorable tax incentives. In light of this state-wide attention by large energy companies, zoning board chair Billy Hudson stated that the zoning board felt it was responsible to move forward with discussions on proposed amendments to zoning regulations.
"Our goal has been fair treatment for the proponent of wind energy, fair treatment for the people nearby, and safety," stated Hudson.
None of the drafts of proposed changes has been finalized and added to zoning regulations at this time.
"This is still a very fluid, changing process," said Bahr, who stated he has been seeking "middle ground" in terms of crafting zoning regulations for wind farms.
Bahr is in the process of securing a larger venue, with capacity for up to 100 people, to hold the next planning and zoning meeting in which the proposed changes to zoning as it pertains to wind farms will be discussed. This meeting could take place on Aug. 15 or could be moved to September.
Bahr confirmed that Gamesa did receive the draft of proposed amendment changes, which were dated "Jan. 14-24, 2005." Bahr stated that in a phone conversation on April 15 with Stephen Wiley, project director for Gamesa, Wiley highlighted for Bahr some changes that Gamesa would recommend the zoning and planning board to consider.
The process of proposed amendments to zoning regulations has evolved from January to April with the following changes:
The major differences in the January draft and the April draft are as follows:
n The number of turbines allowed per parcel.
"One generating turbine per parcel shall be allowed, according to Section 105, Paragraph H, item No. 3 of this Article." (January draft)
Changed to: "Three generating turbines, not exceeding 15 meters in turbine diameter measured from tip to tip per parcel, shall be allowed according to Section 105, Paragraph H, Item No. 3 of this Article." (April draft).
n Location of turbines to residences and public roads.
"No turbine shall be located closer than 500 feet or the total turbine height plus 50 feet, whichever is greater, from public roads. No turbine shall be located closer than 1,000 feet from a residential dwelling unit, except for an agricultural residence, which then the distance shall be no closer than the total height of the turbine, plus 50 feet. (January draft)
Changed to: "No turbine shall be located closer than the total turbine height plus 50 feet from public roads or any dwelling unit.
n Clearance for rotor blades.
"The lowest point of the rotor blades shall be at least 100 feet above the elevation of the ground at the base of the tower."
Changed to: "The lowest point of the rotor blades shall be at least 30 feet above the elevation of the ground at the base of the tower."
n Lighting requirements.
"White strobe lights shall not be permitted during dusk to dawn daily time periods. A slow-flashing red beacon shall be required during evening lighting hours. During the day, the towers shall be lit according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. Illumination shall be allowed for infrared heating devices used in the protection of wind monitoring equipment."
Changed to: "Turbines shall be lit according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. Illumination shall be allowed for infrared heating devices used in the protection of wind-monitoring equipment."
n Permit terminology.
In the section pertaining to a company's responsibility to provide a letter from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP), terminology as to what a company is applying for was changed from "CUP Application for a WFS" (conditional use permit) to "zoning permit."
n Maximum noise level permitted.
"Any noise generated by the WFS shall not be audible on any property adjacent to the said land use."
Changed to: "The maximum noise level permitted for a WFS shall be 65 decibels measured at 500 feet from the base of a turbine.
n Bonding requirement.
In the language of the January draft, a WFS company would be required to obtain a surety bond naming McPherson County as the payee of that bond, to be maintained by the company throughout the lifespan of the WFS.
Changed to: In the April draft, this section is completely deleted.
In addition to these changes, Bahr also drafted and added to the April proposed amendment changes a document, with sections dealing with minimizing soil erosion, maintaining water quality and stating responsibility for public road and bridge improvements and road maintenance.
Bahr stated of the January draft that Gamesa representatives counseled him that some of the aspects of the draft were "unreasonable" or "not realistic" or "not applicable" to a WFS. Bahr said at the April zoning meeting, the zoning and planning board acted "in light of Gamesa's comments" and changes were made to the draft of proposed amendments to county zoning regulations. When Bahr was asked if he felt this action of sharing proposed amendments with Gamesa representatives and allowing them to comment on proposed amendments could be construed by some in the public as inappropriate, Bahr said, "Possibly. I am sure the public could and some will perceive it as that."
Wiley commented that while Gamesa was involved in phone discussions with county representatives, and provided Bahr with information on previous zoning issues Gamesa has been involved in through development of other wind farms all over the world, at no time did a Gamesa representative attend a zoning and planning meeting.
"Often times these counties are new to zoning regulations and are not familiar with all the issues. We are happy to provide information, but at the end of the day, it is up to the county to develop its regulations. If the rules are too onerous, we consider that and possibly have to move," said Wiley.
As to the Gamesa involvement in commenting on the zoning and planning board's proposed amendment drafts, Hudson said, "We haven't made any proposed changes specifically for the benefit of Gamesa."
Wind farm opponents continue to speak against plan
By KERRI SNELL, McPherson Sentinel Sentinel Staff Writer August 03, 2005
Persons against a proposed wind farm in northern McPherson County were in attendance at Tuesday's meeting of the Board of McPherson County Commissioners and addressed commissioners with more information regarding the proposed wind farm.
Deb Colle, Delmore Township, told commissioners that she and her husband recently visited a wind farm in Woodward, Okla., where she said the heights of the turbines are much higher than the turbines located at the wind farm in Montezuma.
"Going to Montezuma and comparing those to what our turbines would be is like saying this building is the same as the Sears Tower," said Colle, who also provided photographs of the wind farm in Woodward, Okla. Colle told commissioners that the Woodward project is less than two years old, and the number of turbines already has doubled what the developing company (not Gamesa) initially installed.
"This wind farm is only 1,200 acres...They do not stay stagnate, these things grow," said Colle.
"When we drove away, we didn't have to look at it anymore. If a wind turbine is a mile from your house, you are looking at it 24/7. You can't abandon your house," said Colle.
Pat Weibert addressed commissioners, calling herself, a "child of the land." She related that her great-grandparents were homesteaders in McPherson County and that her children and their families still reside close to Wiebert near or on her family's homestead. She told commissioners that the proposed wind farm would directly dissect between her home and the piece of land on which her son now resides.
Julie Young, Delmore Township, told commissioners that in past meetings they had requested factual information, not emotional information, and in keeping with that expressed request, she handed them a list of "facts" about wind turbines and wind energy.
The 10th point in her list of 10 she said might be somewhat emotional.
"I can't believe we have all become a community divided on two sides in a cock fight, with Gamesa sitting on the outside," said Young.
Young pointed out to commissioners that she found information pertaining to an international meeting in Berlin on wind turbine noise.
"If this is not an issue then why is there a meeting?" asked Young. "This is something that bothers the heck out of me...If they (Gamesa) say noise is not an issue, I would ask Gamesa to put in writing that no one will be bothered by noise. They won't do that," said Young.
Stephen Wiley, lead project developer for Gamesa Energy, stated that the international company is working toward four major tenants of the wind farm development project focused on McPherson County, and that these are not goals which can always be reached sequentially. Gamesa must secure land leases with the McPherson County landowners, almost all who have been contacted by Gamesa. Wiley stated that in his estimation, most of the landowners who have been approached by Gamesa to lease a portion of their land for placement of a wind turbine are interested in the possibility and "positive." Gamesa will not comment on the amount of money the company is offering for leases to individual property owners.
The company also must submit information for federal and state environmental reviews, a two- to four-month process, according to Wiley. Gamesa still must apply for a permit from McPherson County, most likely a conditional use permit, which Wiley stated in a phone interview is not a possibility until the end of the year and possibly the first part of next year. Chad Bahr, county zoning administrator, stated last week that Gamesa had informed him that they might be ready to submit an application for a conditional use permit as early as September.
In the event that these three requirements fall into place for Gamesa, the company still must secure a power purchase agreement with a Kansas utility company.
"We are talking about an investment in excess of $100 million," said Wiley, "This will not be built unless there is a power purchase agreement with a Kansas utility."
Wiley said that utility companies typically "grade" companies on their official bids, and the utility companies tend to analyze how far a company like Gamesa has advanced in the three other major factors (contracts with landowners, application process with the county and environmental reviews).
Meanwhile, members of the county zoning and planning board have been discussing possible amendments to county zoning regulations since January, in an attempt, according to Bahr, to prepare the county for the advent of a company such as Gamesa filing an official application to build a wind farm in the county.
Statewide, there are 15 proposed wind energy sites, one under construction, and one existing wind energy site, located in Gray County. State statute 79-201, provides a huge tax incentive to large companies to invest in wind farms in this state. The statute provides tax-exempt status to the turbines, valued at $1 million to $2 million each, according to Bahr. In addition to this state statute, there are other federal incentives which some critics of the wind farm industry say accounts for up to two-thirds of the financial profits these companies glean from development of wind energy plants.
"Tax advantages for wind power are not any greater than advantages for nuclear, gas or coal," said Wiley... "Is the reason we came into the state because the turbines are tax-exempt? Absolutely not," said Wiley. "We came because of the wind," said Wiley.
Anderson: interest in wind energy growing
By CHERYL TSCHUDIN, McPherson Sentinel News Editor August 02, 2005
The possibility of the construction of a wind farm in the northern part of the county has raised the interest of this type of renewable energy in the community, Rick Anderson, general manager of the Board of Public Utilities, told McPherson city commissioners at their meeting Monday.
He said that should one be constructed, it would have minimal impact on BPU's transmission lines. However, he noted that due to the interest in wind energy use, he has looked into the possibility of making wind energy available to customers who would like to purchase it.
"We are examining the idea of making this renewable energy available to customers who want it, but it will be significantly more expensive," he stated, pointing out that BPU could enforce an experimental rate to make it available. "We do not know the cost yet, but we will keep the public informed."
As a reminder to the commissioners and to inform the members of the public who purchased the bonds, Anderson noted that the Series 19 utility bonds, that were refinanced about 16 months ago, have a call feature coming up on Sept. 1.
Owners of those bonds will be receiving a refund around Sept. 1.
HOME GRANT REPORT Commissioners signed the HOME grant quarterly progress report. The $275,000 HOME grant will be enough, County Administrator Rick Witte estimated, for repairs to about 13 homes in McPherson County.
INVESTMENTS The following investments were approved by commissioners: a $30,000 certificate of deposit for the Cemetery Endowment with Home State Bank and Trust and a $15,000 certificate of deposit for the Salthouse Broadway Trust with Home State Bank and Trust.
Residents voice concerns over possibility of wind farm in county
By KERRI SNELL, McPherson Sentinel Sentinel Staff Writer July 27, 2005
At Tuesday's McPherson County Commission meeting, several McPherson County residents and one Saline County resident spoke to commissioners about their concerns with the McPherson County Planning and Zoning Board's consideration of looking into possible amendments to zoning laws as pertains to the placement of wind farm structures. The public concern has been catalyzed by reports that Gamesa, a wind energy company from Spain with offices in Austin, Texas, has expressed interest in leasing land in the northeast part of the county for a wind farm.
Chad Bahr, McPherson County Planning and Zoning Administrator, stated, in a phone interview following the commission meeting, that a Gamesa representative has communicated to Bahr that Gamesa may file an application to build the proposed wind farm as early as September.
Bahr, taking direction from the planning and zoning board, plans to devote the entirety of the Aug. 15 planning and zoning meeting to further discussion of and possible action regarding the wind farm issue. Bahr said that the August meeting may be moved to a location in Lindsborg. Bahr also plans to notify by letter all residents of the Bonaville Township and Delmore Township of the meeting. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 15, at a location to be announced.
If Gamesa does in fact submit an official application for a permit to build a wind farm, the McPherson County Planning and Zoning Board would review the application and make a recommendation to county commissioners, who would have final say in the matter. A written draft of proposed amendment changes to county zoning regulations has been crafted, in rough draft form, which the planning and zoning board has been studying since April. The planning and zoning board could approve amendments to regulate the construction and management of wind farms (which the latest draft of proposed amendment changes would support).
The planning and zoning board could adopt stricter regulations in an attempt to detract wind farm companies from wanting to build in the county. Bahr stated that Wabaunsee County is already in litigation for taking action by amending supplemental use regulations, article 31-112, in June, 2004, to completely prohibit wind farms, and that he is monitoring the legal aspects of this case as it might pertain to McPherson County. If no action is taken to amend the zoning regulations prior to Gamesa's application, then the planning and zoning board will have to consider the request for permit with the existing regulations.
"All of this is proposed amendments to the McPherson County Zoning regulations. Neither the planning board nor the board of county commissioners have initiated anything to amend the regulations. If they do, this would be the trigger for required legal notification," stated Bahr.
Julie Young, 2107 19th Avenue, spoke to commissioners at Tuesday's meeting stating that she was one of about 75 people in attendance at the last McPherson County Zoning meeting on July 18 to address this issue and that "only a handful of those were in favor of it (wind farms)." Young told commissioners that she and other concerned citizens will attend the regular commission meetings in order to keep this issue on the front burner.
Bahr stated of the July 18 meeting that in his estimation there were closer to 50 persons in attendance to discuss wind farms, not 75.
"The planning board allowed an hour of time to make pro and con comments on wind farms in general," said Bahr, who said that most of the people in attendance at the July 18 planning and zoning board meeting were against the idea of a wind farm in McPherson County. The planning and zoning board took no action on the proposed amendment changes at that meeting.
Pat Weibert, Lindsborg, expressed to commissioners her concern that adding a wind farm onto the agricultural landscape would detract from the quality of life and beauty of the county which attracts families to this area and which caused McPherson County to be named as one of the top rural areas by Progressive Farmer Magazine.
County commissioner Duane Patrick assured Weibert that he intends to continue to investigate and get the facts on wind farms..
"I want some factual stuff," said Patrick, "Most of what I am seeing right now is testimonials."
He said that the state of Hawaii is also currently entrenched in the wind farm debate. He said that "aesthetics" would be the No. 1 reason people don't support the idea of wind farms for energy.
Patrick asked the question "What about oil wells?" He alluded to the aesthetic issues some people have with having oil wells on their property.
In response, Weibert stated, "One little oil well is quite a bit different than hundreds of higher than the statue of liberty structuresŠWe're people and we have to have homes and we want to live in pretty places. That's what makes McPherson such a beautiful place -- the homes."
"To me, health is more important than money," said Darlene Bloomberg, resident of Saline County. Bloomberg brought to commissioners' attention concerns that wind turbines would elevate the levels of "ELF," which she said stands for "electronic low frequencies," (She may have also been referring to extremely low frequencies of electric and magnetic fields) and cited several articles including the July 30, 1980, issue of Time Magazine, the January, 1980, issue of Reader's Digest and a study from the University of Colorado which Bloomberg stated all point to serious health risks of increased exposure to "ELF's."
"I think that needs to be taken into serious considerationŠOur health needs to come first," stated Bloomberg.
Commissioner Don Schroeder concluded the input session by thanking the participants for their input.
"This will be taken into advisement with no action at this time," said Schroeder.
Wind Farm Concerns
By TODD FLORY, McPherson Sentinel Sentinel Staff Writer July 06, 2005
WIND FARM CONCERNS Delmore Township resident Deb Colle expressed concerns about wind farms and updated commissioners about discussions she has had recently with residents of Lee County, Ill. Colle said she had talked with Elmer Rhoades, who, since he has wind turbines erected on his property in Lee County, had provided McPherson County with information regarding the effects of wind farms.
Rhoades, Colle said, maintained that he has had no problems with noise associated with wind turbines, but said that some other residents in that county have had complaints. Colle said that she had talked to a few other people in Lee County about its wind farm and that a number of them are bothered by the noise and flickering light generated by the wind turbines. One resident, according to Colle, told her that she is planning on moving out of that county because of the wind turbines.
"The truth is out there," said Colle, "and we need to get the facts before people get hurt."
McPherson residents discuss possible wind farm
By Kathy Hanks, The Hutchinson News July 19, 2005
McPHERSON - Still no application has been filed for a permit to build a wind farm in northern McPherson County.
But that didn't stop more than 75 residents from discussing the possibility during a McPherson County Planning Board meeting Monday night. Those for and against the possible construction in the Bonaville Township agreed everyone needed to do their homework on the issue.
Since March, the planning and zoning board has explored the current regulations and possible amendments to zoning an electrical wind farm generating station in the county.
March was when Gamesa, a Spanish company, with offices in Austin, Texas, began looking at Bonaville Township. It is exploring the idea of building a proposed $100 million wind farm. If the board gives the go-ahead, 50 wind turbines would rise on the horizon somewhere in the township within two years.
McPherson County Planning Board Chairman, Billy Hudson opened the floor for comments.
Ben Houghton, a farmer in Bonaville Township, asked if it made sense that the $100 million business could come into the county and pay zero taxes.
"I'm a fifth generation farmer in the county. My farm would be profitable if I didn't have to pay taxes," he said.
McPherson businessman Rick Young said he didn't see any advantages to having a wind farm. His concern was protecting property values and esthetics.
While many residents reiterated the same concerns such as the devaluing of property values and landscape, several residents said remaining open to the idea was important.
Eileen Patrick was one of 30 landowners who formed Eagle Rock Land Owner's Association to study the possibility of renting their property to Gamesa.
"We put the association together to learn what is right or wrong," Patrick said. "We want to protect the township."
Meanwhile, she made a trip to the Montezuma wind farm Monday to see what the operation was like.
Patrick said she heard only minimal noise while standing on the front porch of a home near one of the towers.
"The noise was no different than a ceiling fan," she said. "We all need to do our own research, go visit Montezuma and keep an open mind."
McPherson County resident Deb Colle said the population of Gray County was much smaller than McPherson County, and the wind farm didn't have an effect on as many land owners as it would in Bonaville Township.
Kathy Malm, who owns a home and pasture ground in the township, asked the board members to protect their land.
She recommended they pass a zoning regulation that prohibits wind farms. Then they wouldn't have to go through the public debate each time a company wanted to build in their area.
Rick Anderson, general manager of the McPherson Board of Public Utilities, said they could currently purchase electricity for 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, and while it was still negotiable, the best price for wind energy was 5 cents per kilowatt-hour.
A 15-minute video was shown during the meeting by people opposed to the wind turbines. The video, which was produced by John Boone in 2005, highlighted the noise from turbines that had been built in 2000, as well as the effect on property values.
Hudson said until Gamesa filed an application, the board wouldn't take action on the idea.
Possibility of wind farms in the county concerns some area residents
By Todd Flory, McPherson Sentinel Staff Writer, June 21, 2005
Despite not having the necessary five board members present to have a quorum, a handful of area residents were nonetheless able to voice their concerns and ask for information about the possibility of a wind farm being constructed in McPherson County at Monday night's meeting of the McPherson County Planning and Zoning Board. Planning/Zoning Administrator Chad Bahr said that the board and staff members are looking at possible amendments to the zoning laws as it pertains to the placement of wind farm structures.
Gamesa, a wind energy company from Spain, has expressed interest in leasing about 8,000 acres of land in the northeast part of the county for a wind farm. Bahr said that Gamesa has not yet submitted an application to build a wind farm, and, if the company does submit an application, Bahr believes it may not be until next year. He also pointed out that if it receives an application, the planning and zoning board's job would be to review it and then make a recommendation for acceptance or denial to the McPherson County commissioners, who ultimately would have the final say in the matter.
Many individuals from the public in attendance were dissatisfied with the legal requirement that only landowners within 1/2 mile of a proposed wind farm would have to be notified of an application. They believed that landowners farther than 1/2 mile should also be notified, due to the effects of wind farms, such as, according to a few members of the public, possible additional noise, light flickering and health concerns.
One woman in attendance was concerned that wind farms would decrease property values by 40 percent.
"Anything that would reduce property value by 40 percent, we'd probably not be in favor of," said Billy Hudson, planning and zoning board member. He also mentioned that in his experience with wind farms he has not seen any flickering sunlight or heard any noise from the towers, except in close proximity. "You can't rule out a possibility, but you can choose not to recommend," Hudson said, noting that the board was currently studying the effects of wind farms and whether it would even be a viable option for McPherson County. "We wouldn't treat this any different if it was right outside of McPherson." Hudson said that the board is looking at the zoning regulations because it wants to be proactive about the issue, since wind farms are a new zoning category for the county.
Although he admitted that he did not have much information about the wind farm possibility, one man in attendance thought that there were pros and cons to the issue, and that it was good that the planning and zoning board was taking Gamesa's interest seriously and looking into the viability of such a proposition.
Whether Gamesa will submit an application for a wind farm in McPherson County and whether the planning and zoning board decides to recommend an application to county commissioners or not, Hudson said that Gamesa, like any company, would still have to pass through all of the screens of due process, and that the local public would have a big say in the final decision.
"We don't decide anything, we just recommend to county commissioners," he said. "Due process is all we can go on. We haven't entertained any applicants. We're at a position where we don't have a basis for anything at this point."
Possible wind farm stirs Bonaville residents
By Kathy Hanks The Hutchinson News, June 21, 2005
McPHERSON - Currently no application has been filed for a permit to build a wind farm in McPherson County. That didn't stop some residents in Bonaville Township, in the northern portion of the county, from expressing their fears of having a wind farm in their neighborhood during a planning board meeting Monday night.
Other residents representing members of Eagle Rock Land Owner's Association were on hand to ask the zoning board to have strict regulations, but at the same time support exploring the possible alternative energy source.
Because there was not a quorum for the meeting, Chairman of the McPherson County Planning Board Billy Hudson adjourned the meeting to July 18. He then turned the gathering into a listening forum.
Since March, the planning and zoning board has explored the current regulations and possible amendments to zoning in Bonaville Township.
Chad Bahr, McPherson County planning and zoning administrator, explained to 22 people in the audience that Gamesa Energia, a publicly traded company headquartered in Spain, did receive a temporary permit to measure the wind in Bonaville Township about a year ago.
Bahr said once an application for a permit is filed, according to state law, people within half a mile would be notified. However, no one knows exactly where the site might be.
Dave and Martha Hilley, Stafford, drove two hours to attend the meeting with a file of information and a list of reasons they were against wind energy.
The couple bought a quarter section of ground in the area of where the windmills might be located. Their plan is to build a retirement home on the location.
""Last weekend we were looking over plans for our dream house, and Thursday we read in the Lindsborg newspaper about a possible wind farm going up near our property," Martha Hilley said.
Hilley reminded the board members Kansas law allows wind farms to be tax exempt.
"That includes every tower they build and every vehicle they own. It will drop property values by 40 percent, and there will be no new growth to the area," Martha Hilley said.
"Anything that drops property values 40 percent, we wouldn't be interested in," Hudson said.
He told the audience they were raising legitimate concerns.
"These are all concerns we'll look at when an application is filed," Hudson said.
Todd Butterfield also attended the meeting. He owns 10 acres in the township, with his new home sitting about four miles from Lindsborg
"We would have a perfect view of all the windmills," Butterfield said. "We moved there for the pristine view. At night I can go out on our deck and see total blackness. We can hear the crickets chirping."
Company looking to put wind farm near Lindsborg
By Kathy Hanks, The Hutchinson News, June 25, 2005
Since March, a Spanish company has been eyeing land in McPherson County for a proposed $100 million wind farm. If plans go through, 50 wind turbine towers will rise somewhere in Bonaville Township, located in northeast McPherson County near Lindsborg, within two years. "There is nothing definite," said Stephen Wiley, a representative of Gamesa Energia, speaking from the company's office in Austin, Texas. "We are still in the preliminary stages."
Calling itself the third largest wind-energy developer in the world, Gamesa, of Bilbao, Spain, has a presence in more than 15 countries, with more than 1,000-megawatts of electric capacity. Relatively new to the U.S., it has a 50-watt wind farm in operation in Mendota Hills, Ill.
While certain critical issues - such as receiving a permit to build and securing a source to sell the electricity to - have not been resolved, some significant plans have been developed.
Gamesa hopes to build a 100-megawatt complex, with each tower having the capacity to produce 2-megawatts of electricity, in northeast McPherson County. Studies show the wind currents are good in that area of central Kansas.
The company knows there is a strong transmission system available, which it hopes to connect to. Moving forward hinges on establishing a power purchase agreement with a Kansas utility company. Those negotiations are still being developed, Wiley said.
"We may be able to sell to Aquila or Kansas City Power and Light," Wiley said. "In all likelihood, we'll serve Kansas residents."
The company knows the general vicinity in which the towers will be placed. However, engineers and meteorologists would determine specific locations, Wiley said.
Also, landowners would have the final say whether they wish to lease their ground for the purpose of having a tower constructed on it.
Up to 40 landowners could be asked to lease their ground, Wiley said. He would not disclose how much they would be offered for the lease, but he agreed the going rate for such a commercial arrangement is typically about $3,750 per tower, per year.
While some of the landowners were contacted in March and told of the potential for the farm, Wiley did not know if they were all in agreement with the plan.
Recently, a group of 18 landowners formed Eagle Rock Land Owner's Association and hired an attorney to handle any contracts that might be prepared. But because it's still undetermined exactly where the wind turbines would be located, rumors are rampant in Bonaville Township.
"Right now we've had a week to think about this," said Kathy Malm, who owns a home and pasture ground in the township with her husband, Harper. "We haven't heard anything but rumors."
Her concern comes from what she has been able to find on the Internet.
"I still need to investigate what it does to cattle, wildlife and property values," Malm said. But, she believes the first question every resident of McPherson County should ask is whether it's the kind of development they want in the community.
"We need to ask, 'Is this appropriate use of our land?'" she said.
David Gonzalez, also with Gamesa, said he could not understand how people would be against this type of energy source that produces no pollutant and uses no water to produce.
Some people complain of the visual obstruction and the noise, but "the noise of a wind generator has become a non-issue," Wiley said. "When wind generators first operated, they were noisy. But now they just hum. The wind is noisier."
The turbines, which Gamesa manufactures, need a breeze of 8 mph to turn. When the wind gusts from 20 to 30 mph, they automatically shut off. Ice is not flung from the blades Wiley said, but simply slides down.
Chad Bahr, McPherson Planning and Zoning administrator, said he is conducting a study of wind farms to be prepared when and if Gamesa applies for a building permit.
"I'm talking to other communities that have wind farms, looking at regulations," Bahr said. "Were also looking at maximum tower heights, the length of the tip of the blade to the ground, as well as who will pay for the roads."
One disappointment came when Bahr learned all of Gamesa's equipment would be tax exempt under Kansas law.
"That's pricey stuff and would be a large capitol investment," Bahr said.
Wiley said despite the tax exemption, Gamesa has every intention of being involved in the community and making contributions to McPherson.
"This is a long-term relationship," Wiley said. "We want to be good corporate citizens. We'll enter into a discussion to come up with an arrangement to take care of the roads. We'll go above and beyond."
Meanwhile, permission must first be given, not only from McPherson County Commissioners, but also from U.S. Fish and Wildlife. Plus, various environmental permits must be secured.
"I'm estimating that, if we're lucky, we could be in operation by the end of 2006," Wiley said.