Wind energy lawsuit at a stall

by Mark Scott, Staff Writer
Manhattan Mercury, July 7, 2006

ALMA A lawsuit filed by a group of Wabaunsee County property owners against the Wabaunsee County Commission over a June 2004 vote to prohibit industrial wind energy in the county appears to be at a standstill with the recent retirement of a district court judge.

In late May, Wabaunsee County zoning administrator David Stuewe submitted a report to the commission is response to District Court Judge Tracy Klinginsmith's request for the commission to supply documentation to support the June 28, 2004, vote to ban industrial wind energy development. The commission accepted the report and has met in executive session with its legal representative, Manhattan attorney Bill Frost.

"We're just waiting to submit more information to Judge Klinginsmith," Wabaunsee county commissioner Ervan Stuewe said.

However, Klinginsmith retired on July 1, so it not known when the case will be reviewed by a judge.

"I don't think any interim person will want to sit down and study all that stuff," Ervan Stuewe said.

Stuewe said one option might be if Klinginsmith is asked to continue on the case. Otherwise, whoever is appointed to replace him would have to take over the chores and it is unclear how quickly a replacement will be named. Kilinginsmith has also served as district court judge in Pottawatomie County.

In a March 3, 2006, memorandum, Klinginsmith ordered the commission to produce the "findings of fact" on which the 2-1 vote to prohibit commercial wind energy farms was based.

Klinginsmith wrote, "The record contains no findings of fact by the Board on which this court can determine the reasonableness of its conclusions as set forth in Commissioner (Maurice) Gleason's motion."

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Roger and Angelena Zimmerman, Glen Eberle, Bill and Linda Unruh, Robert and Janet Goss, and Wilson Valley, LLC. The lawsuit states that as a result of the commission's June 28, 2004, vote to ban commercial wind turbines in the county, the plaintiffs are being prevented from constructing wind energy conversion systems as proposed by J.W. Prairie Wind Power, a German wind energy firm with a branch office in Lawrence.

The resolution permits small wind energy conversion systems typically used on farms and ranches. Zimmerman and other property owners who had agreed to lease land to J.W. Prairie Wind Power for a major wind energy farm filed the lawsuit against the commission in August of 2004.

You can reach Mark Scott by phone at 776-2300, ext. 249, or by e-mail at mscott@themercury.com


Officials prepare report on wind power 'no' vote

by Mark Scott, Staff Writer
Manhattan Mercury, March 21, 2006

ALMA Wabaunsee County commissioners have asked the county zoning administrator to draft a written report documenting the "facts" the commission used nearly two years ago in voting to prohibit commercial wind energy farms in the county.

The request is in response to a court order connected to a lawsuit filed against the commission by a group of Wabaunsee County property owners. The commission met with Manhattan attorney Bill Frost on Monday to discuss the memorandum before sending it to zoning administrator David Stuewe.

In the memo, the commission states, "The board presently believes that adequate facts were made available to the Wabaunsee County Planning Commission, and to the board, in the previous hearings on this matter, from which such findings can be made." The memo goes on to explain that since the "make-up" of the commission has changed since the vote, and since not all the facts previously presented have been adequately documented, the commission wants to document the facts as required by the court order.

Since the commission passed the June 28, 2004, resolution banning commercial wind energy farm development in the county, Rod Allen has replaced three-term commissioner Fred Howard on the commission. Howard and commissioner Maurice Gleason voted in favor of the resolution, while County Commission chairman Ervan Stuewe was in opposition. The county zoning administrator when the vote was taken was Claude Blevins, who has since retired.

The commission has requested that David Stuewe present the report at the May 15 commission meeting.

In a March 3, 2006, memorandum, District Court Judge Tracy Klinginsmith ordered the commission to produce the "findings of fact" on which the 2-1 vote to prohibit commercial wind energy farms was based.

Klinginsmith wrote, "The record contains no findings of fact by the board on which this court can determine the reasonableness of its conclusions as set forth in Commissioner (Maurice) Gleason's motion."

The plaintiffs are Roger and Angelena Zimmerman, Glen Eberle, Bill and Linda Unruh, Robert and Janet Goss, and Wilson Valley, LLC. They want to build wind energy conversion systems as proposed by J.W. Prairie Wind Power, a German wind energy firm with a branch office in Lawrence.

You can reach Mark Scott by phone at 776-2300, ext. 249, or by e-mail at mscott@themercury.com

Action expected next week on wind farms

by Mark Scott, Staff Writer
Manhattan Mercury, March 14, 2006

ALMA Wabaunsee County commissioners took no action Monday in response to a Wabaunsee County District Court judge's order to provide "facts" and "conclusions" to support a June 2004 decision to prohibit the development of commercial wind energy farms in the county.

The commission held a 60-minute executive session with attorney Bill Frost Monday morning to discuss the court order connected to a lawsuit filed against the commission by a group of Wabaunsee County property owners. Commissioner Ervan Stuewe said the commission will meet again with Frost next Monday.

"We'll probably proceed with some kind of action next week," Stuewe said.

In a March 3, 2006, memorandum, District Court Judge Tracy Klinginsmith ordered the commission to produce the "findings of fact" on which the 2-1 vote to prohibit commercial wind energy farms was based.

Klinginsmith wrote, "The record contains no findings of fact by the Board on which this court can determine the reasonableness of its conclusions as set forth in Commissioner (Maurice) Gleason's motion."

Klinginsmith also notes that the motion made by Gleason for the vote was provided by Bruce Waugh, an opponent of wind energy farm development in Wabaunsee County. The judge writes that there are no transcripts or minutes of any discussion by the commission on the merits of the motion prior to taking the vote.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Roger and Angelena Zimmerman, Glen Eberle, Bill and Linda Unruh, Robert and Janet Goss, and Wilson Valley, LLC. The lawsuit states that as a result of the commission's June 28, 2004, vote to ban commercial wind turbines in the county, the plaintiffs are being prevented from constructing wind energy conversion systems as proposed by J.W. Prairie Wind Power, a German wind energy firm with a branch office in Lawrence.

The commission voted to prohibit commercial wind energy farms on June 28, 2004. The motion permits small wind energy conversion systems typically used on farms and ranches. Zimmerman and other property owners who had agreed to lease land to J.W. Prairie Wind Power for a major wind energy farm filed the lawsuit against the commission in August of 2004.

Wabaunsee judge wants the facts

by Mark Scott, Staff Writer
Manhattan Mercury, March 10, 2006

ALMA A Wabaunsee County District Court judge wants to know what "facts" and "conclusions" were used by Wabaunsee County commissioners nearly two years ago to prohibit the development of commercial wind energy farms in the county.

In a March 3, 2006, memorandum written in reference to a lawsuit filed against the Wabaunsee County Commission by a group of county property owners, District Court Judge Tracy Klinginsmith orders the commission to produce the "findings of fact" on which the 2-1 vote to prohibit commercial wind energy farms was based.

Klinginsmith writes, "The record contains no findings of fact by the Board on which this court can determine the reasonableness of its conclusions as set forth in Commissioner (Maurice) Gleason's motion. The basis contained in the motion are wholly conclusory. The court therefore finds and concludes that the record before the court is inadequate for a reasonableness determinator."

Klinginsmith notes that the motion made by Gleason for the vote was provided by Bruce Waugh, an opponent of wind energy farm development in Wabaunsee County. The judge writes that there are no transcripts or minutes of any discussion by the commission on the merits of the motion prior to taking the vote.

In the memorandum, Klinginsmith also denies a motion by the plaintiffs to "depose," or remove the county commissioners from office. Only two of the commissioners who voted that day are still in office Maurice Gleason and Ervan Stuewe. The third commissioner, Fred Howard, was defeated by Rod Allen in the August 2004 primary.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Roger and Angelena Zimmerman, Glen Eberle, Bill and Linda Unruh, Robert and Janet Goss, and Wilson Valley, LLC. The lawsuit states that as a result of the commission's June 28, 2004, vote to ban commercial wind turbines in the county, the plaintiffs are being prevented from constructing wind energy conversion systems as proposed by J.W. Prairie Wind Power, a German wind energy firm with a branch office in Lawrence.

Wabaunsee County Commission Chairman Ervan Stuewe said Thursday that the commission will meet with its attorney Manhattan attorney Bill Frost on Monday morning.

"What we do next depends on what he (Frost) tells us," Stuewe said. "I have no idea whether there will be any action taken."

In a February 2005 court hearing, Klinginsmith ruled that the commission was within its rights to modify the commercial wind energy conversion system zoning regulations without having to send them back to the county planning commission. He has since ruled on other aspects of the matter.

The commission voted to prohibit commercial wind energy farms on June 28, 2004. The motion permits small wind energy conversion systems typically used on farms and ranches. Zimmerman and other property owners who had agreed to lease land to J.W. Prairie Wind Power for a major wind energy farm filed the lawsuit against the commission in August of 2004.