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Commissioners waive moratorium

By KALEY LYON

klyon@dailynews.net

Hays Wind LLC's plans for a wind farm south and southwest of Hays will continue, and sooner than originally anticipated.

A year-long moratorium required by Ellis County's zoning regulations regarding a conditional-use zoning permit was waived by county commissioners in a 2-1 vote at this morning's meeting, with Commissioner Perry Henman dissenting.

Commissioner Vernon Berens and Chairman Dennis Pfannenstiel both spoke in favor of wind energy development within the county and granting the waiver to speed up the process.

"Without a doubt, Iberdrola has made some changes in the application," Berens said. "Without a doubt, wind energy will take place in Kansas, in the U.S., in the future. ... Without a doubt, I'm supportive of it, and Mr. Chairman, I would make the motion for the waiver."

Because the waiver was granted, the company's application officially will be filed with the Ellis County zoning office, starting the public hearing process. After the joint planning commission makes a recommendation for the permit, the issue will be back before county commissioners for final vote.

The year-long moratorium went into effect when the conditional-use permit was denied by the county commission in September. Had the waiver not been granted today, the company could have proceeded regardless in three months.

Henman, however, was again the lone dissenter, repeating concern about the timing of the issue and the fact the joint planning commission has not yet finished making its revisions to zoning regulations.

"Again, I come back to the deal that the zoning board has not completed its process," Henman said. "They can refile this without a waiver in three months, so why are we stepping on their toes? Let's give them a chance to do this."

Henman also said, while the second application is better than the original, he does not believe the company has made a substantial change to its application.

"I think a substantial change, a good cause would be if the people that are protesting withdrew their protest," he said. "And I don't think that's happened."

Henman also pointed out there are three other projects being considered in the county and said he would like to see a moratorium on all development until the revised regulations have been established.

"I'd hate to fight this battle over and over again," he said.

"Our regulations will never be perfect. I'm looking at the economics of this county," Berens interjected. "I think it's up to the zoning board to work out the details. I don't think it's up to us."

"At this point, all we're concerned about is the waiver," Berens added. "Three months doesn't make a difference. I think we need to get started with it. And that's why I made this motion."