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More than 100 people packed the DeWitt County courthouse Wednesday night, Aug. 22, 2018, for a special meeting on changes to the current wind farm ordinances. Many in support of the changes wore yellow shirts.

CLINTON — The developers of a proposed DeWitt County wind farm won a major victory Wednesday night as the County Board rejected new language that could have put a proposed wind farm in jeopardy.

After more than three hours of public comment, the county voted 10-1 not to approve a 1,640-foot setback distance from the property lines of a non-participating resident.

It was one of three ordinance changes previously recommended by the Regional Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals, which were also supported by a group hoping to stop the construction of wind farms in the county. Another, the installation of a lighting mitigation system, was approved by the board. A third amendment, language to ensure there would be zero shadow flicker at a non-participating residence, also failed, on a 9-2 vote.

More than 100 people packed the DeWitt County courtroom for the meeting.

DeWitt County currently has no wind farms. However, Tradewind Energy of Lenexa, Kan., is planning to submit a special-use permit to build the Alta Farms II wind farm in the northwest portion of DeWitt County near Waynesville and Wapella.

“The existing regulations are more than sufficient to protect the citizens of DeWitt County,” said Tradewind Energy Development Director Tom Swierczewski. “The purpose of these proposed amendments is to stop wind energy. We ask that you support with better schools and more jobs and not allow one neighbor to veto what another neighbor does on his land.”

Brandon Storm, who would be in charge of placing the turbines with the company, argued against changing the ordinance to establish setbacks at a minimum distance of 1,640 feet from adjacent property lines.

“That would be a project killer,” he said.

Currently, the setbacks are set at 650 feet.

“It’s not feasible and not possible. There is no other county with wind farms with setbacks of 2,000 feet. It would drop the percentage of available land for turbines here from 20 percent to about 3 percent.”

Forty-six people asked for permission to speak on the matter prior to the vote, but several declined the opportunity. Many of the those in favor of placing stricter guidelines in the ordinances pleaded with the board to approve the changes.

Patricia Klem told the board that she had the chance to participate in the project, but declined. Her neighbors, though, are participating.

“According to their proposal, we will have wind towers on all four sides of us,” she said. “Our family lives there and works there. We have cattle, so it’s not like we are just out in the field of 80 acres on occasion. We are a Centennial Farm, our family has lived here for over 100 years and five generations. Our family has invested time and money and sweat and we deserve top protection.”

Dale Nafzigger said he moved to the county several years ago, in part, because of the scenery.

“I haven't been here that long, but I chose to live here,” he said. “I saw it and said 'Yeah, that's where I want to live.' I understand that the view that I bought is not my land — it's someone else's. But this is my home and I don't want people invading my home with their sound or noise from a wind tower.”

Tradewind Energy said the project would create approximately 254 construction jobs and 21 long-term jobs, generating more than $14 million in new earnings during construction. Also, it would bring in more than $1 million in new long-term earnings.

Company officials said they plan to present their plans to the county soon and hope to be under construction next year, if approved.

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Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow

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