County approves expansion of wind farm project leases

Rex Savage of Florence has spearheaded Wind?bourne Energy?locations for wind turbines in the area where he lives south of U.S. Highway 50?for nearly 14 years.

But Savage only received final approval to seek expansion of leases and construction for the project during the Nov. 10 Marion County Commission meeting by a 2-1 vote.

Commission Chairman Roger Fleming, casting the loan dissenting vote against commissioners Randy Dallke and Dan Holub, said he did so only to encourage Savage to talk with one of the more than 14 persons who came to the meeting? most of whom opposed the wind farm.

Repeated local opposition came from Bob Maxwell, former planning commission member, and Bob Gayle of Florence, who has repeatedly opposed turbine development on grasslands south of Highway 50 that have been designated for more pristine preservation by Gov. Sam Brownback with support from ranchers and conservation groups represented at the meeting.

Scott Ritchie, representing Tallgrass Ranchers, said wind turbines, with their 300-foot plus towers, are an invasion of the landscape.

Others opposed the height of the towers and the destruction of prairie where each tower goes as opposed to invasive oil wells that stay lower, and are further apart.

Bruce Waugh, attorney and co-founder of Tallgrass Ranchers, warned that deciding in Savage?s favor could result in a lawsuit similar to one filed in Wabaun?see County that stopped all wind turbine development there.

Holub refuted the threat of lawsuit, saying landowners? rights were trampled on.

?We live in a republic, and we had a group, nonelected, that advised one of our elected officials (the governor) on this issue, where to draw these lines, and he chose not to check with Marion County,? Holub said.

?He just ignored us and said, ?Well, you can have your government, but it doesn?t mean anything to Topeka??and I absolutely, totally resent that.

?We?ve been treated like that for years,? Holub added. ?This is just another instance where some group finds an ear in Topeka that comes and dictates to local government.

?Who?s going to speak for landowners here? I think the county commission is. This is what they saw as a fit use for their land when they signed those leases. The zoning board took a lot of time.

?We can debate this to death. And if we lose this in court, we?ll get a different lawyer and try again. There comes a time to draw the line.?

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