Editorial: Wind delay

Douglas County has kept moratoriums on wind power development in place for more than two years. It’s time to get some regulations on the books.

Officials seem to be taking an unreasonably long time to develop regulations for wind power in Douglas County.

A moratorium on wind power development was put into place nearly two years ago after a renewable energy development company sought to install wind turbines in the southwest corner of the county. Commissioners said at the time that the county needed some time to refine the county regulations for such operations. The first moratorium on wind development ran from December 2013 through April 30, 2014. The moratorium has been extended several times since then, including this week, with commissioners extending it once again — until July 2016.

Eileen Horn, the county’s sustainability coordinator, said the latest extension would give the county time to accomplish several tasks. The county, she said, needs to develop a two-tiered system to differentiate between small turbines for personal use and large commercial wind farms, to better define the application process in cooperation with the city of Lawrence and to specify any geographic restrictions that might be applied to wind energy projects.

Those are all reasonable issues to consider, but why couldn’t they have been addressed two years ago? Horn says the sustainability office now hopes to have new zoning and code regulations written, heard publicly and adopted by April or May. Why has it taken so long?

It’s unknown whether the developer that originally approached Douglas County two years ago still is interested in doing a project here or has moved on because of the delays. The repeated moratoriums had to be discouraging to that firm and any other potential wind power developers. That might or might not have been the county’s intent.

Hopefully, the county will meet its latest deadline to craft wind power regulations — and those regulations will reflect the input of various stakeholders, including landowners and wind power developers. It’s reasonable to have some regulations in place, but it’s unfair to keep extending a moratorium rather than setting workable guidelines for wind power projects in Douglas County.