County puts brakes on wind farms

Anyone seeking to develop a large-scale wind farm in Douglas County will have to wait until next spring before filing an application.

Douglas County commissioners passed a resolution Wednesday imposing a moratorium any large-scale wind energy projects until they have time to draft regulations that would govern how they are developed.

Commissioners made it clear they are not opposed to wind energy development. But the county’s development codes currently make no provision for them.

“We all understand the energy landscape is changing, and Kansas has a unique resource at its disposal,” commission Chairman Mike Gaughan said. “I want to ensure we’re thinking about how and where we can say ‘yes’ to these things and still protect landowners, taxpayers and the county. If there’s a way for us to be part of the growing wind energy economy in Kansas, need to find a way to do that.”

The action came amid reports from residents in southern Douglas County that a potential developer has approached residents seeking to buy easements for wind towers.

“Currently we don’t have any specific regulations that mention wind farms,” said county Administrator Craig Weinaug.

The moratorium, which runs through April 30, applies to any tower or wind turbine over 100 feet in height, or any system involving multiple wind turbines of any size proposed or built by the same person or group of people.

In the meantime, the resolution calls on the county’s Zoning and Codes Department and the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission to draft regulations dealing specifically with wind farm development, a process county officials said would take about five months.

In other business, commissioners met in a closed-door executive session to discuss building security issues. No action was taken afterward, but Weinaug said commissioners will likely vote next week to adopt a security plan that would allow them to apply for a four-year exemption from the state’s new concealed carry weapons law.