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County files response to wind lawsuit

By KALEY LYON

klyon@dailynews.net

The Ellis County Commission and Hays Wind LLC have filed their responses to a civil lawsuit filed Aug. 26 regarding a conditional-use permit granted for a wind farm southwest of Hays.

The suit was filed on behalf of 44 plaintiffs hoping to reverse the commission's decision to issue a conditional use permit and approve the development plan for the project.

The appeal, filed by Wichita attorney Patrick Hughes, alleges the conditional-use permit application and development plan submitted by Hays Wind were incomplete.

Before the appeal was filed in court, appeals also were made to the Ellis County Joint Planning Commission and the Ellis County Commission. The commission voted 2-1 to approve the permit and development plan on July 28.

Dennis Davidson, the counselor representing the county in the lawsuit, said the appeal filed in court is similar to the appeals presented to other county entities.

"It appears to me to be the exact same arguments that have been advanced previously," Davidson said.

The county's response, filed Tuesday, denies allegations that the commission's decisions to approve the permit and plan were unreasonable and unlawful.

The defendant's answer also alleges that the plaintiffs are not aggrieved parties, as required by state statute, and "lack standing to bring this action."

This is a question that is expected to be further discussed in court, Davidson said.

Hays Wind LLC, represented by attorneys Mel Sauer of Hays and Jay Fowler of Wichita, filed a similar response Tuesday.

In addition to the response, the company has filed a motion to intervene, which will be discussed via telephone conference Sept. 24.

Davidson said that, on the part of Ellis County, there is no objection to this motion.

"There will be no objection by the county because it's clear they are lawfully entitled to do so," Davidson said.

Hughes could not be reached immediately for comment.

If granted, Hays Wind would be represented in the case, becoming like a second defendant, Fowler said.

The company's legal counsel also has filed a request for a case management conference, during which the judge and legal counsel will discuss how to proceed.