Sunday, August 26, 2007

Who Would Be Accountable?

This letter is submitted by Jim and Luanne Kramer, residents of Ellis County, Kansas:

A recent HDN letter said opponents of the wind project are inconsistent because they opposed zoning. The author implied this makes them hypocritical. That is simply not accurate. Those opposing zoning when initially proposed and debated aren't inconsistent in supporting it now. They have no choice. Zoning is here; now people have to deal with it.

As we understand it, land-use freedom before zoning was quite different. A person had freedom to do as they wanted, but also had responsibility.

If use of the land somehow harmed his neighbors, he'd be liable to lawsuit. Before zoning, an outside developer would have responsibility should harm be brought about by an industrial wind project. But, with zoning, responsibility seems lost.

Who is responsible now? It doesn't appear to be the landowner, as long as he's using the land per zoning. Is it CPV/Iberdrola? Apparently not, because at the initial presentation in March, Ms. Gordon said they only consider projects for counties that have zoning in place. Therefore, zoning must cover them also. Is it Ellis County? Isn't that like suing yourself, since your tax dollars fund the county and its programs?

Who, then, takes responsibility? What recourse will affected residents have should harm come to them, their families, or their properties, as a result of this project?

For that matter, should harm come from future zoning applications? Once a facility like this is approved in Ellis County, we can be sure there'll be more wind complex permits coming in shortly. The responsibility question is there, begging for an answer.

Who? If this were merely a zoning question of someone wanting to build a house, or start a business, near another's property, the answer would be simple. But this is entirely different. Iberdrola doesn't know what size of turbines, yet. They could be 400 feet tall or taller still. They don't know the size of footings, yet. They may be 8 feet or 30 feet deep (who cares about the water table)? Total number of turbines isn't decided, yet. There could be anywhere from 100 to 140 (or more, who knows)? Final locations of turbines haven't been decided, yet. Do they even have boundaries finalized, yet? How on earth can they guarantee how far away from residences turbines will be until they decide?

How can Ellis County even consider a project of this magnitude without knowing these very important details?

Don't our zoning regulations require all of this in writing before a proposal is even considered?

In June, the acting chairperson quoted that the zoning regulations serve a number of purposes, the first of which is "To promote the health, safety, comfort, and general welfare of the citizens of Ellis County, Kansas."

All residents, whether they live within the project location, in Hays, or for that matter, anywhere in Ellis County, have every right to expect this statement is true, and followed to the letter.

All residents have the right to expect zoning to protect us and we should accept nothing less.

We truly want to believe zoning was adopted for that reason; not as a ploy to open the door for an already in-progress wind project, but it's getting more and more difficult to believe.

County residents have an obligation to object to and oppose this or future proposals they feel do not meet fundamental zoning rules and requirements.

We feel this conditional use permit to site an industrial wind facility in the proposed area should be denied. It does not meet the first requirement of our zoning commission's stated purpose.

Jim and Luanne Kramer
120 W. 37th St.
Hays, Kansas

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