With the growing prevalence of commercial renewable energy projects (CREPs), Harvey County Planning and Zoning director Gina Bell wanted to be prepared should any conditional use applications come up within the county.
Using areas where projects are currently in place (like Sumner County) as a template, Bell and the planning and zoning advisory board worked together to draft some regulations that were brought before the Harvey County Commission during a work session at its meeting on Tuesday.
"I wanted to get something on the books. It may not be perfect, but it's something significant that we can fall back on should someone come and make applications," Bell said.
Stipulations lined out in the proposed application guidelines included where such projects can be located in Harvey County (A-1 agricultural zoning districts), what plans need to be submitted with said applications and clearances that need to be met before proceeding with such projects — including from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (stating no threatened or endangered species will be affected) and a certified structural engineer (to clear the equipment used).
The regulations also line out some policies for handling key issues related to CREPs, including electromagnetic interference magnetic fields, visual impact, noise, bird migration/strikes, water quality, aviation/lighting, infrastructure/roads and more.
Other items included in the regulations included how to handle the transfer or decommissioning of such project, while there were also separate guidelines put in strictly for wind energy projects. There were also several items put in limiting the number of access roads that could be created and noting that applicants need to confer with the county about transportation routes during the construction process — an effort to maintain the county's current infrastructure.
"I think we did a good job protecting our roadways for the county and the township," said commission chairman Chip Westfall.
Some amendments commissioners suggested to the regulations included making contact information available on all subcontractors being utilized (to facilitate better communication in case of emergency) and County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber noted the policy will be changed for formatting before a final version is brought to the commission for approval — deciding on the final changes and how those will fit into the regulations.
Depending on how substantive those changes are, the turnaround on approval of the regulations could be short, but Swartzendruber noted he first wanted to clear everything with county counsel before any formal action is taken.
"My concern is I want to make sure that this gets adopted following all the appropriate procedures, so that we don't have a company come in a year, two or five from now and then dig up that we didn't do something right," Swartzendruber said.
While commissioners questioned just how much activity on CREPs would be seen in Harvey County, they believed the policy was well put together and will now wait to take action until those final clarifications are made.
In other business, the county commission:
• Shared condolences with Bell on the loss of her mother.
• Was notified of the annual Harvey County Farm Bureau banquet, which will be held Oct. 21 at Dyck Arboretum in Hesston.
• Received invitations to presentations on the Life of a Railer (Newton's new conduct policy) and the Future of Kansas, with the later hosted by Kansas Global Trade Service in partnership with the Wichita Chamber.
• Learned that the local board of health is currently scheduling flu clinics.
• Heard an update on the USD 373 school bond election, with 5, 213 ballots (of 13,726 mailed) having been returned to the county clerk's office.
• With traffic concerns to be addressed (through placement of stop signs) and the advisory board voting in favor, the commission approved a conditional use permit for a wedding venue at 10316 S. Spencer Road.
• Approved the return of Community Development Block Grant funds to the state (as discussed previously regarding a no longer utilized microloan program).
• Approved Resolution 2019-19 for a bond agreement amendment regarding industrial revenue bonds for Bigs Property LLC, making it a 15-year bond instead of a 10-year bond (after some confusion over the initial agreement).