Civil suit dismissed, fight not over with wind farm

Proponents of a wind farm project in the south-central part of Marion County received a favorable nod from the district court on its motion to dismiss a civil suit filed in mid-May.

Patrick Pelstring, president of Expedition Wind LLC, said the company, and the more than 100 landowners involved in the project, were pleased with the ruling on Aug 23 by Judge Steven Hornbaker, Marion County Eighth Judicial District.

“The court confirmed that the Doyle conditional use permits issued for this wind project are valid CUPs and have not expired,” Pelstring said.

On the opposite side, there were more than 70 named plaintiffs, with Randy Eitzen initially leading the charge in the mid-May legal action.

Following the court’s decision Aug 23, Eitzen said: “The judge’s decision has not impacted our momentum (in moving forward).

“Ultimately,” he said, “the May 16 petition was filed past the 30-day window to appeal.”

The reasons given as to why Eitzen and others originally filed the lawsuit on May 16 was to invalidate the 2016 amendments and to re-impose the pre-amended Article 27 zoning regulations.

In addition, the plaintiffs wanted the court to declare the Doyle CUPs expired and invalid for failure to obtain a power purchase agreement, to prohibit Expedition Wind from installing the turbine models there propose, to declare Expedition Wind in violation of Article 31 and for a temporary injunction.

Eitzen also said that in the lawsuit they asked the court to declare the CUPs invalid, and they allege there was a violation of the Kansas Open Records Act.

Pelstring cited one of the statements made by Judge Hornbaker, which read: “There is simply no basis for this court to intervene and allow plaintiffs to impose requirements that are not set out in the regulations or the CUP as a matter of law.”

Pelstring added: “Expedition Wind believes this lawsuit was simply a stalling tactic by the few residents of Marion County who oppose the economic benefits that will be received from this project by the county and by their neighbors. It had no merit from the start.”

Other lawsuits have been filed by the plaintiffs, but Pelstring said he believes this is more of “the same improper and unsupportable claims by the people trying to interfere with the project.”

“Expedition Wind will continue to vigorously pursue its project,” he said. “These delays are expensive and divisive for everyone, especially (Marion) county taxpayers.”

Pelstring also wanted to let the public know that Expedition Wind is moving forward with the project given the clear decision by the court.

“It’s time to accept the county’s planning and zoning process as sound,” he said. “Rather than continuing to pull apart, let’s start working together to build a stronger, more economically viable Marion County.”

Pelstring said he would hope that given the court’s findings, the plaintiffs will cease any and all future actions.

Eitzen added one final thought, which was to say that the plaintiffs “fully expect to win the remainder of any other lawsuit(s).”

“We will do whatever is necessary to stop the project,” Eitzen said. “What most leaseholders don’t know is that after the 10-year exempt period, the land within a mile radius of each turbine will be assessed at a commercial rate.”

“Who can afford that?” Eitzen said.

Historically, the original wind farm project to the south was initially started by Rex and Carol Savage of Florence and SunWind, owned by Joe Craft.

The assets and previous companies were purchased by Expedition Wind and in August of 2018, the county’s planning and zoning department presented two separate conditional use permit (CUP) applications for temporary meteorological towers, known as MET towers for Expedition Wind.

Pelstring said Expedition Wind carried over all of the Doyle leases and signing of new leases, along with adding substantial footprint to the original wind farm project.

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