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Commissioners approve development plan

By KALEY LYON

klyon@dailynews.net

In addition to approving a conditional-use permit allowing Iberdrola to proceed with a Hays wind project, Ellis County commissioners approved the company's development plan in a 2-1 vote.

The Joint Planning Commission approved the plan June 25, a decision that was appealed in county commission chambers Monday morning.

Commissioners Dennis Pfannenstiel and Vernon Berens spoke in favor of affirming the presented development plan, with modifications presented by the company.

"I don't have any questions," Berens said. "I looked over them. I think we need to take into consideration the incorporations."

Perry Henman dissented, citing additional concerns with the plan, such as towers proposed to be located within the 3-mile radius of the city of Hays, which is under city jurisdiction.

"Personally, I just think that on most of these, it's issues of technicality, but I think they should be addressed," Henman said. " ... The way I read our rules and regulations, our zoning administrator, before we even proceeded with that, should have taken it to the city of Hays."

Attorney Melvin Sauer, representing Hays Wind LLC, said the company is not requesting county commissioners' approval for the area, and the application does not encompass those specific tracts of land.

"We are not seeking approval from the county commission for any towers in that 3-mile radius," Sauer said. "Again, this would ultimately come from your legal counsel, but the board of Ellis County commissioners would not have jurisdiction to approve towers in that 3-mile radius."

The appeal, filed by Wichita attorney Patrick Hughes -- who is representing about 60 Ellis County residents -- cited several concerns with the development plan. Hughes was unable to attend.

The appeal states the development plan is incomplete and did not meet requirements under county zoning regulations.

The plan failed to show location and orientation of the proposed operations and maintenance building, and points of ingress and egress to the facility, the appeal claims.

The appeal also states, among other items, the plan places turbines too close to existing utilities and easements, and also does not comply with height restrictions specified in the regulations.

Another issue that has been questioned is the fact the company chose to pull back lot lines for the application. The appeal says these lots do not conform to zoning regulations.

After the appeal was filed, Iberdrola filed a response, addressing several of the listed concerns.

The company's legal team also presented commissioners with amendments to the development plan, including a layout for the operations and maintenance building and locations of electrical lines. The commission's vote accepted these amendments for addition to the development plan.

The Joint Planning Commission has the authority to approve development plans, and the approval is considered final unless the issue is appealed to the county commission, as was the case Monday.