Douglas County planning leaders could open another round of public comments on revised wind farm regulations
photo by: Brian Grimmett/Kansas News Service
Revisions to the county’s rules for wind energy projects have spurred hours of comments at public meetings, hundreds of recommendations for changes and a ream of public petitions, and the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission could soon give the public even more chances to weigh in.
The planning commission is set to discuss the first draft of the amended regulations, first introduced near the end of 2022, during a meeting on Monday night, and according to the agenda, it could direct planning staff to revisit the regulations and make changes to them.
If that happens, it will trigger another public comment period, during which people and organizations can submit formal feedback about the rules for wind energy projects. The first public comment period lasted 60 days and wrapped up about a month and a half ago, and it generated a lot of discussion about the rules — and about whether the county should even allow any commercial wind energy development in the first place.
So far this year, there have been in-person town halls and comments made at Douglas County Commission meetings. And the agenda packet for next week’s meeting is more than a thousand pages long, much of it consisting of comments from residents and organizations.
Almost half of the agenda document, about 500 pages, consists of single-page “citizen petitions” in which residents or property owners have checked boxes on a form to show that they aren’t in favor of industrial wind turbine farms, commercial or industrial solar farms or both. Solar farm regulations will not be addressed at the planning commission meeting on Monday.
The packet also includes an annotated draft of the wind energy regulations, which has hundreds of recommendations for changes and clarifications from a variety of people, companies and organizations.
That includes more than 70 recommendations from a representative of Polsinelli Law Firm on behalf of NextEra Energy Resources, the Florida-based energy firm that’s been exploring whether a wind energy project would be viable in southwest Douglas County.
Some of those recommendations from NextEra would just clarify wording and definitions, but others ask for more substantial changes, such as removing wording that requires a stormwater management plan and visual and noise impact assessments that detail the expected impacts of a project’s operation. NextEra also suggests removing a provision that would give the County Commission the right to enter a project area during construction and operation without notice, as well as a process that lays out how county representatives could request to climb a tower to more closely inspect operating equipment. Instead, NextEra’s recommendation asks for 72 hours of advance notice if the county’s representatives want to enter the project area.
Many email communications are also included with the agenda packet, including some where residents ask for an extended public comment period. Some residents wrote that they and others they knew didn’t have enough time in the first public comment period to adequately research and provide their own comments for consideration.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the planning commission will continue a discussion that it started on March 8, which specifically involved how height, noise and setback should be regulated for wind energy projects.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission’s meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the City Commission Room at Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. The meeting will also be available via Zoom.