- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—The Pratt County Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals had to reschedule a public hearing Monday after board members recognized they didn’t tell the public about it.

At 7 p.m. planning board members were going to hear about NextEra’s request to change the county zoning language on commercial wind energy criteria regarding how low a turbine blade can be to the ground.

The county criteria currently states a blade can be 85 feet from the ground, but NextEra, a wind farm looking to put wind turbines in Pratt County, is requesting that be changed to 70 feet.

Tim Branscomb, zoning administrator, said he believes the company wants the criteria changed because newer blades industry-wide are longer — but the company wasn’t able to say that itself since the hearing was denied.

The company and public will be able to speak for or against the language change at the rescheduled meeting, August 24 at 7 p.m. The location was not set at the meeting.

Board Member Fred Newby was the first to ask other members if the public hearing they’d set for Monday was against their own rules because they hadn’t notified the public or put the hearing in their agenda or minutes.

“Let’s follow our own rules, if not, let’s throw it away in the waste paper basket,” Newby said.

“I’m not against having a public hearing, but let’s do it right,” Newby said.

Debate between multiple members erupted about the hearing as a special meeting and their own policy language, but everyone voted to strike the hearing from Monday’s agenda, reschedule and notify the public of the next one to “do it right.”

After hearing this, two representatives from NextEra put their documents and computer away and sat in silence.

Later into the meeting, board members asked for Branscomb to provide research about the health and safety effects of the larger blades which would be closer to the ground.

Newby asked if they will cause more wind, wind noise or turbulence.

Ed Petrowsky, who was sitting near Newby asked if Branscomb would talk with the University of Kansas, that did research on wind turbines, to see how lowering the blades’ altitude would affect turbulence generation.

“Also, by lowering it that much, and getting that big a blade, we are going to get into more birds — and that is on the fly away for the whooping crane,” Petrowsky said.

NextEra will be able to speak its part, and offer its own research on August 24, but its representatives were forced to sit in silence as its public hearing was taken away from them.

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(c)2015 The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kan.)

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