Submitted by Anne Dare
About 60 attendees and opponents of the Jayhawk Wind wind turbine project in Bourbon and Crawford counties received a roadmap to derailing it at a meeting sponsored by opponents Thursday at the Rodeway Inn.
Opponents say they’ll now take their case to Bourbon County Commissioners at a county meeting set for Tuesday, January 14.
Organizer Kim Simons said she was pleased with the turnout of county residents who came to the meeting. A Facebook live stream of the event was viewed by more than 700 people not in attendance, she said, and was still posted on the group’s Facebook page for those who weren’t able to attend.
Opponents say they now plan to lobby Bourbon County Commissioners to withhold the approval of a road use agreement with the company, and for the adoption of a county zoning plan to protect residents from similar threats in the future, she said. Simons said the group would also network to prospective landowners to further explain details they might not know about the project and convince them not to sign leases for it.
The core of the opposition revolves around protecting county residents from the destruction of the natural vista of Bourbon County and a reduction in home values by the construction of what will in essence be a 28,000 acre power plant, Simons said Friday. Jayhawk Wind, owned by Apex Clean Energy has proposed the project in southwest Bourbon and Northwest Crawford counties and says the project will produce jobs and economic benefit, and enough electricity to power more than 70,000 homes.
“Maybe it can,” said Dane Hicks, a Garnett newspaper publisher and one of three speakers from Anderson County who successfully fought off a wind farm project there in 2017, “unless the wind doesn’t blow. What are you going to do when the wind doesn’t blow?” Hicks told those in attendance the wind industry is illegitimate because it is wholly kept alive by federal income tax credits for corporations which develop them, and by government mandates that force power companies to buy the electricity they produce.
“There’s no environmental benefit, there’s been no coal fired power plants shut down because of wind power, because when there’s no wind blowing you still have to have electricity,” Hicks said Friday. “You can’t just power a bunch of coal plants up and down on the power grid on a second’s notice based on if the wind’s blowing or not.”
A second speaker, Burt Peterson, provided a detailed review of the landowner lease submitted by the project in Anderson County and an attorney’s review of the language of the lease. Peterson said the lease, which was similar to other wind farm leases the group had reviewed, in essence ceded nearly all control over lease sites to the company including up to 500 foot easements for access roads and utilities, and even required landowners to pay the costs of litigation if there was ever a lawsuit brought in regard to the site.
“Our lawyer said it was unfathomable that a landowner would enter into a lease that restricts their rights like that,” Peterson said. “That lease is written for the explicit benefit of the company, and if you sign up you’re basically giving up any protections you might have.”
Another featured speaker, Mike Burns, CEO of AuBurn Pharmacies in Garnett and one of the landowners who was approached for the Anderson County project, said landowners had to be sure they read the lease fully and got a lawyer’s review of it. He said his experience in Anderson County led him to distrust these companies.
“I really didn’t know anything about wind farms either,” Burns said. “I’m all about economic development, but is it going to be good for our county or bad?” He said he asked the company representatives what property tax payments would be to the county and school district, ‘…and they said we’ll have to look into that.’
“It took me about ten seconds to Google it and find out that in Kansas they were exempt from property taxes, and I knew right then I was dealing with people who were not going to be completely honest.”
Burns stressed the need to press county commissioners to adopt a county zoning plan that set regulations and guidelines for wind farm development. He said everyone has the right to do what they want with their own property, but that right only extends to the point it damages someone else’s rights.
Lori Lovelace, a local appraiser, said from appraisals she had done in Coffey County, where a wind farm was constructed several years ago, and from other appraisals she had seen done of properties near wind farms, home values saw a reduction of some 20 percent.
Simons urged all county residents opposed to the project to attend the Bourbon County Commission meeting Tuesday, January 14. It has been announced that the commission meeting will start at 1:30. The commissioners will break at approximately 4:30 and then reconvene at 6pm. An agenda will be published Monday afternoon.