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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Change coming for wind energy proposals

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  • Changing the process for wind energy applications to the County Planning Board took one more step to reality Monday afternoon.
    Tim Branscom, Pratt County planning and zoning administrator, presented a resolution to the Pratt County Commissioners during their regular Monday meeting that revises the process companies have to go through to make application to the county commissioners for a wind energy project.
    The County Commissioners will review the proposed changes in the resolution and could vote to approve or disapprove the changes as early as Monday, June 10.
    The reason for the proposed changes is to make it easier and lest costly for companies to present wind energy projects.
    The changes would expand the application from a one-step to a two-step process. Those changes will make it easier for companies to make a wind energy plan application.
    If the changes are approved, the first step of the application will include presenting, to the planning board, a general description of the property, including the total acreage, and a legal description, for all owners of real property within the area of the proposed facility.
    A map shall also be submitted with the location of dwelling units in the leased and unleased area plus gas storage locations and setbacks for turbine location.
    The applicant must show any other information that is available at the time of the application for the development plan.
    Once the application has reached the Planning Board, a public hearing will be held for input on the proposal. When the community hearing is complete the board will review the information and then present it to the County Commissioners for their vote, Branscom said.
    If the Commissioners give the go ahead, the business will then proceed to get all the necessary tests, surveys and studies completed along with all the details of the wind farm including the number, height, location and specific details of each generator, road features and all other necessary elements.
    Also required is an independent third-party or university study covering the potential impact to businesses in the county and potential property value changes.
    When all the details of the project are complete they will be submitted to the planning board. A second public comment session will allow for more input on every aspect of the project, Branscom said.
    After the second public hearing, the planning board will evaluate all information from the company and the hearing then submit that information to the County Commissioners for final approval, Branscom said.
    If the Commissioners give final approval, the company may then proceed to develop the project in the county.
    The basic difference between the existing application policy and the proposed changes is that now an applicant has to submit everything at once before the planning board including all the environmental studies and detailed descriptions of every element of the proposed project.
    Page 2 of 2 - Those studies and plans are very costly to the company and, when submitted under the current method, the company is not guaranteed they will be approved to continue.
    The proposed plan would allow for a much simpler first presentation that basically reveals the location of the proposed wind farm with residence locations.
    If the plan is approved, then the company can proceed with the rest of the necessary studies and details. The independent third-party or university study about the impact on business in the county and potential property value changes in the county are both new elements that will be added if the new application policy is approved.
    In other Commission activity:
    • South Central Kansas Community Correction Director David Wiley presented a request of $15,000 out of the county budget for part of the operation of the truancy program. In the last fiscal year, of the 73 referrals to the truancy program, 52 or 53 came from Pratt County.
    • Several departments submitted budgets for consideration.
    • Pratt Regional Medical Center President and CEO Susan Page and Mike Patton, PRMC manager for Plant operations reviewed current status on the new addition and renovation of the hospital including work on gas and sewer lines.
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