Moratorium resolution is approved

There was no action taken following an hour long executive session with Nemaha County’s hired wind farm attorney James Neeld, but after a nearly one-hour public discussion, the commissioners unanimously approved a moratorium for the county. This six-month moratorium states that commissioners will not hear any requests to use county roads, infrastructure and other public areas of the county.

In addition to the three commissioners – Gary Scoby, Dennis Henry and Tim Burdiek – there were nearly 50 people in attendance at the Monday, May 13, meeting, including County Attorney Brad Lippert and County Clerk Mary Kay Schultejans.

Those present received a copy of Resolution 2019-4, regarding the moratorium, for review and on which to ask questions during the meeting. Resolution 2019-4 will be printed in the Wednesday, May 20, issue of The Sabetha Herald.

Below is an overview of what the resolution includes:

• The commissioners will not hear any requests to use roads, infrastructure and other public areas of Nemaha County for a period of six months.

• The commissioners intend to appoint an advisory committee to determine the viability of enacting a zoning ordinance, either limited or broad, for Nemaha County.

• The commissioners intend to receive, discuss and debate both the conclusions of the advisory committee and overall merits of a zoning ordinance.

• This resolution will not apply to the Soldier Creek Wind Farm Development currently pending before the commissioners.

• The commissioners, by a majority vote, may consider requests to use the roads, infrastructure and other public areas if necessitated by a natural disaster or other emergency.

Scoby said there are still decisions the commissioners need to make regarding the advisory committee.

“We’re thinking possibly a five-person advisory committee to determine the viability or not of having a zoning ordinance in Nemaha County,” Scoby said. “We’re not sure what that advisory committee might look like, but we encourage you folks or anyone to consider serving on that, and we will make that decision at a later date. There will possibly be a budget to go with the advisory committee.”

Lippert said that the zoning ordinance could be limited or broad and would cover any aspect of zoning, and is not limited to just wind development.

“I think the way it is envisioned is that this committee would study and consider all aspects,” Lippert said. “They would then report back to commissioners and as you will note here — it says commissioners intend to receive, discuss and debate both the conclusions of the advisory committee and the overall merits of a zoning ordinance. The decision would ultimately be up to the county commissioners.”

Commissioners opened the meeting up for discussion regarding the resolution. Those present asked questions regarding the advisory committee, zoning and the current Soldier Creek Wind Farm Development Project that is currently before the commissioners.

“Does that mean that the setbacks in the current term sheet before us are accepted by the commission?” Bob Carson asked.

“No, all aspects of the Soldier Creek Wind Project are still in negotiations,” Lippert said.

Lynette Strathman asked since the commissioners were still in negotiations if that allowed NextEra to go anywhere in the Nemaha County. Lippert said the Soldier Creek Wind Farm Development is “grandfathered” into this moratorium, and the commissioners have the option to modify this moratorium.

“It says that is does not apply to the Soldier Creek Wind Farm Development currently pending before the commissioners at this time,” Lippert said. “The commissioners would have the option to modify this moratorium to include that project or to include any aspect of that project. So it doesn’t include that at this time, but the commissioners can add that to the moratorium.”

Cindy Brack asked what was keeping the commissioners from doing that now.

“Because right now they are involved in good faith negotiations with NextEra, and they want those negotiations to continue,” Lippert said. “I think the point that is being made by this resolution is not intended to – at least at this time – impact the negotiations as they pertain to NextEra and that project.”

“Would it be fair to state that it would keep another wind developer like Invenergy from doing anything for the next six months, but it doesn’t really restrict NextEra at all, right now?” Strathman asked.

“NextEra as it pertains to this particular project, but it would limit any discussions from any other wind developer,” Lippert said.

“Say this project does go ahead and NextEra does build however many turbines, and then you zoned the county,” Milinda Spferslage said. “Does that mean they cannot build anymore, and that it would apply to any that would be built after you applied the zoning?”

“That is correct,” Lippert said.

“Pending what that zoning ordinance looked like,” Scoby said.

“Essentially what were are saying is this. We want to continue good faith negotiations with NextEra, in regards to this project,” Lippert said. “With regards with any other project, that may be in development, whether that is wind energy, solar, anything of this nature, the commissioners want to step back, appoint a committee and study a zoning ordinance, whether it be broad or limited. That is why they are proposing this moratorium.”

“So it is a still an option that you would completely decline the term sheet?” Strathman asked.

“Absolutely,” Lippert said.

“So you will meet with Mr. Neeld and NextEra again,” Strathman said. “Will there be a point where you tell us if there are revisions to the term sheet or will you just act?”

“I think that information will be made public,” Scoby said. “There will most likely not be any more public hearings. We would entertain more comments prior, probably in a format similar to this, but probably no more public hearings such as we had.”

After discussion the commissioners voted unanimously to approve Resolution 2019-4.

Since the commissioners are still in negotiations with NextEra, they still encourage residents to correspond with them either via email or written letter regarding the proposed Soldier Creek Wind Farm, which is proposed to be located in southern Nemaha County.

Commissioners will not have their regular meeting on Monday, May 20. It has been moved to 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 22.

To see full video of the meeting, please go to https://youtu.be/yVZmgUl8Wbs.

Heather Stewart228 Posts

Heather Stewart is a reporter for The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2015. She specializes in court and sports reporting, as well as photography. Heather is a 2011 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in psychology. She lives in Sabetha with her husband.

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