Purchase photos

County resident questions Henman's actions

4/7/2009

By GAYLE WEBER

By GAYLE WEBER

gweber@dailynews.net

Ellis County Commission Chairman Perry Henman doesn't deny he has been in contact with wind developers in Ellis County.

But one county resident believes the activity has been "very prejudicial" and makes it look as though Henman is "asking for a special favor."

Gene Bittel, chairman of the county's planning commission, told county commissioners Monday that Henman has contacted wind developers, specifically Invenergy LLC, to discuss what a comprehensive plan, a guideline for future county growth, might look like.

"This activity is very prejudicial to landowners north of Ellis along the blacktop road as it gives the perception to developers that Commissioner Henman will only support a project if it excludes the area," Bittel said.

Both Bittel and Henman own property in the proposed Invenergy LLC project area north of Ellis.

"I was just telling them what a comprehensive plan would entail," Henman said. "I said, 'In Ellis County, a comprehensive plan would probably be things along blacktop roads where you have rural water and you would have some areas of protection.' "

However, Bittel said without a comprehensive plan in place, Henman should not be allowed to make such proposals to developers.

"There has been no notification, public hearing or any other form of communication to landowners to give the opportunity to contest these proposals," said Bittel, who has twice voted in favor of an Iberdrola wind project southwest of Hays.

Henman, who has twice voted against the Iberdrola project, has said he wants the county commission to develop a comprehensive plan instead of instructing the planning commission to do so.

"As a commissioner, people got concerns, and I need to talk to these developers," he said. "I was just communicating, in my opinion, what I thought."

Invenergy Project Manager Will Furgeson said his "abstract" conversation with Henman occurred more than a month ago. He has not had a face-to-face talk with commissioners Glenn Diehl or Vernon Berens.

At that time, Ferguson said Henman's idea was to have a half-mile to 1-mile setback from the blacktop road north of Ellis and from U.S. Highway 183 north of Hays.

"I think his idea was leaving a buffer zone on those roads to allow more development of housing in those areas," Furgeson said.

"If there were going to be setbacks, I think it would make more sense to be set back from non-participating homes or properties."

Furgeson said he would be open to talking with Henman or any of the commissioners about their ideas for a comprehensive plan in order to give them a developer's perspective.

Neither Diehl nor Berens commented on the issue Monday.