LJWorld Green

Kansas Supreme Court upholds ban on commercial wind farms in scenic Flint Hills

October 30, 2009


A new crop in Kansas

Poised as the third best state in the country for wind power and on the cusp of a renewable energy revolution, Kansas has the potential to be at the epicenter of the wind industry.

— In a case pitting the beauty of the Flint Hills against large wind farms, the Flint Hills won.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday in favor of a zoning ordinance in Wabaunsee County that prohibits commercial wind farms.

Officials said the high court decision represented the first in the state in which the pursuit of wind energy conflicted with desires for unobstructed views of the countryside.

Kansas is considered one of the top states for wind power potential, but development in the scenic Flint Hills has been discouraged for years. Five years ago, then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius urged restraint on wind development in much of the Flint Hills.

The ordinance, approved by the Wabaunsee Board of County Commissioners, states that the wind farms with towers 120 feet in height or more “would be incompatible with the rural, agricultural, and scenic character of the county.”

The rural county of about 7,000 people is located in the Flint Hills, which contain the majority of remaining Tallgrass Prairie that once covered much of the central United States.

Several landowners, who had entered into contracts for wind farm development, sued the county commissioners, saying the prohibition was unreasonable.

But the Kansas Supreme Court agreed with a lower court finding that the county commissioners’ zoning decision was lawful. The lower court said the board took into consideration the wind farms’ impact upon the aesthetics of the county and the wishes of residents.

The landowners also contended they entered into wind leases prior to the 2004 adoption of the ban and that the county cannot pass a law that interferes with the enforcement of a contract. But the court said land use is heavily regulated and that changes in the law may alter contractual obligations.

The state Supreme Court, however, left open several other issues for further arguments. Those include whether the zoning ordinance represents a “taking” of property rights without just compensation and whether it violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. A second round of oral arguments is scheduled for Jan. 27.


TNPlates 8 years, 1 month ago

Right on Lawrenceguy40! The Supreme Court has had enough on Global Warming and this is their shot across the bow of Scientists, educated folks, and is all about exposing the truth! In fact, if you look at the details of their ruling it's clear what this was all about.

(Anybody read the actual ruling? It is about Global Warming, ain't it?)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"The ordinance, approved by the Wabaunsee Board of County Commissioners, states that the wind farms with towers 120 feet in height or more “would be incompatible with the rural, agricultural, and scenic character of the county.”

There is no prohibition against windfarms, merely their height, and therefore the overall size of them. But there will be (somewhat smallish) windfarms in Wabaunsee county, and such smaller facilities will very likely will be as much a part of the energy future as the larger ones to be found elsewhere.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago


A more appropriate moniker for a bird like you would be ScareCrow-- as in straw man.

purplesage 8 years, 1 month ago

We can all sit here in the dark. Can't build coal plants and can't build wind farms, so more jobs will go overseas and our utility costs will increase. The unintended, but real consequence, is that when America loses out, the nations that gain are ones which don't have an enviromental consciousness. Example: years ago, a copper mine in AZ shut down due to a 60 cent price of copper and a 90 cent production cost, half of which was environmental. Government subsidized mining in South America picked up the slace. There are parallels between the two situations that shouldn't be ignored.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"I think what has realy happened here is that the Court has said that the Greenies cannot destroy the greenery in order to save it."

No, what they said is that the County has the right to make zoning restrictions on these sorts of facilities. A future commission could (and probably will) modify the current restrictions. The state legislature could also remove or reduce the county's rights to zone in this way, either through a law or constitutional amendment (which I believe would also take a popular vote.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"Yet another defeat for property owners and property rights."

That really depends about which piece of Wabuansee County property you happen to be sitting on.

Don Whiteley 8 years, 1 month ago

The best news for Kansas since the Hippie trash shut down nuclear power. Kansas was well on its way to becoming the wind farm for the nation with these ugly obstructions in every field, farm, and back yard in the state. Hopefully more counties pick up the call. And yes, over this monstrous method of generating very little power for the space they take up, coal is preferable.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

I know this is a tough concept for you, LO, but what a person does on his/her property can have an effect on the neighbors.

I know that doesn't jive well with your desire to elevate the abstract notion of "property" to a natural law, but there it is, nonetheless.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"And yes, over this monstrous method of generating very little power for the space they take up, coal is preferable."

You've obviously never been to coal country.

webmocker 8 years, 1 month ago

Interesting that some who have previously decried government intervention and championed the rights of the individual now cheer about a government restriction on how individuals can use their own property.

Paul R Getto 8 years, 1 month ago

An interesting irony, this is. The Flint Hills are one of the best places in the US to build wind farms. The farms also disrupt the awesome beauty of that ancient sea bed. We must and eventually will change to cure our addiction to a finite resource, sustituting technologies that use the infinite...water, wind and the sun. The transition will be painful and progress will not be linear or predictable. This is one step in the process. Community is not without limits and property rights sometimes yield to the greater good.

Godot 8 years, 1 month ago

Yes, Sebelius definitely was on top of her game when she urged restraint on Flint Hills wind farms. She was definitely considering the best interests of Kansans when she did that. What a visionary! I am so relieved she will be in charge of nationalized health care. (sarcasm dripping from the keyboard).

Scott Drummond 8 years, 1 month ago

"Just think how much energy could be saved if the Liberals practiced what they preached. If all the socialists on the LJW stopped using their computers, started riding the “T” and imposed upon themselves the restrictions they want to impose on everyone then we wouldn't need wind farms. Wolf Creek would supply enough energy for the rest of us. "

Using this forum, as opposed, for example, to creating a letter and mailing it is far more environmentally sensible, so your comment is rather silly.

mr_right_wing 8 years, 1 month ago

Wind turbines should be outlawed. You have to disturb the ground when installing one and that can startle gophers and prairie dogs and worms and ants and snakes. Then birds can run into the spinning turbines and be killed. Not to mention possibly endangered flying insects. If you love animals, all animals, stop the use of barbaric wind turbines!!

Plus, if the wind turbine is still for a few days, spiders could build a web on a little section of one, then when that turbine does start spinning again the spider would get dizzy and disoriented and throw up. That is animal cruelty.

mr_right_wing 8 years, 1 month ago

....and what about poor cows?! Cows might see a wind turbine and get confused and think it is a windmill and wonder why they are in Holland..!

Stop wind turbines NOW!!

Stuart Evans 8 years, 1 month ago

why don't they do something really creative and say that all new homes must have a wind turbine or solar panels included? It likely wouldn't be enough to completely remove it from the grid, but it would be a healthy savings.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"bozo, building a wind farm does nothing to violate the neighbors' property rights. "

Only if your definition of "property rights" is extremely narrow.

"But keep trying to act as if there's no such thing as property rights."

I never said there was no such thing. I merely said it's an abstraction. So, the scope of any such rights will always be a bit arbitrary. The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that, for the present, the county commission is the final arbiter of that arbitrariness.

However, over the next 5-15 years, the developers of wind farms seeking prime ground will likely become seen as having superior rights to those of neighbors seeking to protect the "natural beauty" of the skyline surrounding their property.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"why don't they do something really creative and say that all new homes must have a wind turbine or solar panels included?"

A much more effective approach would be to increase the energy efficiency of all homes, new and old.

Godot 8 years, 1 month ago

How many spinning wind turbines, anchored and vibrating deep into the earth, will it take to trigger a storm of earthquakes?

prairierose54 8 years, 1 month ago

In all fairness to everyone who does anything that the greenies of Lawrence don't like.

I expect to see Greenpeace and the lovely Sierra Club strolling thru Alma, and the other areas of the Flint Hills with their signs protesting the residents like they've done to Westar.

These could say "Country Bumpkins don't care about us smart greenies". OR "Citizens of Wabaunsee County will be responsible for more global warming".

I'd be a little careful going out amongst the red necks. They probably won't be too receptive to your ideas.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"Property rights extend only up to the borders of the property." "If you want to have a beautiful view, then you need to buy an easement on your neighbors' properties."

OK, please reconcile these two statements without resorting to some sort of abstraction involving invisible lines that are perpendicular to equally invisible theoretical tangents to the irregular surface of the quasi-spherical planet we live on. (And please also reconcile the fact that that property was probably obtained through coerced, bad-faith treaties with the Indians that used to "own" it.)

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