Any large-scale wind farm operations in Douglas County will have to wait another six months before they can take any action, after county commissioners voted Wednesday to extend a moratorium halting any projects.
Douglas County's sustainability office asked commissioners to extend the moratorium, which would have expired this December, to allow them more time to better understand the area's need for zoning regulations for any future developments, said Eileen Horn, the county's sustainability coordinator.
The moratorium was initially put into effect when the county found its regulations for wind development operations needed to be better defined after a renewable energy development company applied to install wind towers in November 2013, Horn said.
With commissioners all in agreement, the moratorium was extended through July 2016.
Horn said the office of sustainability will use that extra six months to further define what regulations might be set forth for anyone wishing to install wind towers or turbines.
“I think it's reasonable for us to set out some sort of expectation so that anybody who is looking at this knows what they're getting into,” Commissioner Mike Gaughan said.
In particular, the office hopes to accomplish several things between now and July 2016:
- Develop a two-tier system for regulating wind towers and turbines. That system would differentiate between small turbines for personal or small commercial use and large commercial wind farm projects.
- Better define an application process in cooperation with the city of Lawrence for companies looking to develop wind energy projects in the area.
- Specify any geographic restrictions that might be applied to wind energy projects, taking into consideration the fact that some places in the county may be more appropriate for a project than others.
With the new expiration date, Horn said, the sustainability office hopes to have new zoning and code regulations written, heard publicly and adopted by April or May.
In other action Wednesday, commissioners:
- Unanimously approved the purchase of several vehicles and a brush chipper for the county's public works department.
- Unanimously approved a one-year extension for a conditional use permit for Public Wholesale Water Supply District No. 25 and removed a condition on the permit requiring the property to be platted to allow for a larger facility and water ground storage tank.
Commissioners meet at 4 p.m. each Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. The meetings are open to the public.
More information and a full agenda can be found online at douglascountyks.org/commission/meetings.