Wind energy companies wanting to develop facilities in Pratt County will now have to go through a two-step process when seeking a special use application through the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The Pratt County Commission approved the changes to the application process during their regular Monday night meeting.

Tim Branscom, Pratt County planning and zoning administrator, presented the resolution to the commission that is designed to get more information from wind energy companies.

The Planning and Zoning Commission decided to revamp the process to make it easier and less expensive for wind energy companies to make application and partly in response to BP withdrawing their special use application and seeking changes.

The new process starts with the wind energy company presenting a general overview of their facility including a map that shows where turbines can't go, in indication of set backs, a general area where the wind farm would be located, how many acres would be involved and any other material they have available, Branscom said.

Then a public hearing would be held to get public feed back on concerns about the proposed facility.

After the public hearing, Planning and Zoning would review all the information and present it to the County Commissioners for the first of two votes now required before a wind farm can begin construction.

The Commissioners review the information and if they vote to approve the first step in the application, then the company will have to go through the exhaustive procedure of getting all the necessary environmental studies, provide specific plans for location of roads, location of each wind generator, details for each wind generator's construction and all other elements involved in the project will have to be worked out in detail for a final presentation.

All these elements are the same that were required in the single-step process but now are required in two-steps.

Besides all the original requirements, an additional two items have been added to provide more information to the county and the residents that will be impacted by the facility.

The additional elements are an impact study on the impact to businesses in the community and anther study on the impact on property values and whether they will go up or down, Branscom said.

Independent third-party or university studies would be required in this second step.

Once all the elements are complete and returned to Planning and Zoning, another public hearing will be held to present the final proposal and get feedback on all elements.

After the hearing, Planning and Zoning will review all the information then present it to the County Commissioners for a final vote. The commissioners can approve, disapprove, send it back for more information, revise or table the motion.

Sue Peachey said she was concerned about protection for residents when the company eventually closes the facility or if they go bankrupt.

"We will do everything we can to protect the citizens of Pratt County," said Commissioner Glenna Borho.

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