County leaders renew permit for meteorological tower associated with potential wind farm in southwest Douglas County

photo by: Matt Resnick | Journal-World

NextEra Energy project manager Fiona Bagwell, left, and Kansas City-based attorney Alan Claus Anderson, attend the Douglas County Commission's business meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023.

Douglas County commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday to renew a temporary permit for a meteorological tower associated with a potential large wind farm project in southwest Douglas County.

Specifically, the commission approved a three-year renewal of the permit for the 197-foot-tall meteorological evaluation tower in Marion Township, with the potential for a one-year administrative extension. That was what county Zoning and Codes staff had recommended; in its request, NextEra Energy Inc., on behalf of Tower Associates LLC, had asked for a four-year extension.

Last year, the tower, located roughly 17 miles west of Baldwin City, was given an initial 12-month permit, and that was set to lapse on Nov. 30 of this year. County Planner Karl Bauer told commissioners that the tower appeared to have followed all of the county’s requirements in the initial permit.

In advance of Wednesday’s public hearing and vote on the permit, he said, the county had sent 18 letters to property owners within a half mile of the tower, notifying them of the meeting and their opportunity to comment. He said that the county hadn’t “received any comments or questions.”

A couple of public commenters on Wednesday did have some concerns. One of them, Dawson Thompson, said he worried about a lack of signage around the tower with contact information for its owner — “It might be helpful to the residents if they know exactly who owns it,” he said. Another commenter wondered whether the tower was in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration requirements for lighting and markings; NextEra project manager Fiona Bagwell told commissioners that the Florida-based company was following the FAA’s requirements for towers that are under 200 feet tall and located in rural areas.

Before the vote, Commissioner Karen Willey asked about adding signage at or near the tower, and Bagwell said NextEra would need to consult with the property owners, listed in the agenda materials as Charles and Doris Fawl, before putting up any signs.

Alan Claus Anderson, a Kansas City, Missouri-based attorney representing NextEra, told the Journal-World that the tower didn’t necessarily mean that a renewable energy project would be coming to southwest Douglas County. As the Journal-World has reported, county staff has not yet received a permit application for a wind farm in southwest Douglas County, but towers like this one help developers gauge whether such a project would be viable. There are currently seven meteorological testing devices in unincorporated Douglas County.

Despite the fact that no plans have been filed, many residents in southwest Douglas County have banded together to oppose any future wind farm in the area.

In other business, commissioners:

• During a work session, received an update on the ​​county’s Equitable Entrepreneurship Ecosystem, also known as its “E3 team.” The commissioners heard about efforts over the past eight months to improve opportunities for minority entrepreneurs in Douglas County.


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