A special meeting of the Marion County Commission came to an abrupt halt on Friday after Brad Jantz, county counselor, made an announcement to a full room.
“There has been a lawsuit filed against the county, and as much as I know about it, the subject matter are the wind turbines and farms,” Jantz said. “As such, I’m going to strongly recommend, here today, that you table any public discussion about Article 27 or anything else until we get served with that and know what it is we are dealing with, because invariably, this is going to be pertinent and germane and unfortunately, I don’t think we can go any further with this today.”
The meeting was called earlier last week to discuss the county engineer position and related matters and the Zoning Regulation Article 27 (wind energy) and related matters. It was scheduled prior to the lawsuit being filed.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday, May 16, is against Expedition Wind, LLC, the Board of County Commissioners and the Clerk of Marion County, Kansas. The plaintiffs, Randy Eitzen, Marlene Eitzen, Cheryl Marsh, Tom Britain, Staci Janzen, Lorrie and Nick Peter, Amy Stutzman, Virginia Skinner, Eddie Coaver, Michelle and Brandon Butts, Robert Sellers, Jeffery Soyez and Charles Loewen, are 15 Marion County homeowners who filed suit on the verified complaint for judicial review, declaratory relief, temporary restraining order and violation of Kansas Open Records Act.
The document lists a number of concerns regarding the proposed wind farm.
One complaint listed on the lawsuit stated, “Expedition Wind has failed to meet the obligations imposed on it through Marion County Zoning regulations Articles 31-108 through 31-111. For example, pursuant to Marion County Zoning Regulation Article 31-108 (5), Expedition Wind (and each of its predecessors) was obligated to have a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) approved and accepted from the County Commissioners before it could obtain any building permits to construct wind turbines and other related buildings, facilities, etc.”
The lawsuit lists failures to issue written notice at least 20 days prior to a meeting on more than one occasion.
It also sites a violation of the Kansas Open Records Act due to a disclaimer found on Marion County record request forms that was put on by the Clerk of Marion County which was not authorized. The disclaimer violates the public policy of the State of Kansas and the Kansas Open Records Act.
Expedition has also filed a document objecting to the request for temporary restraining order.
The document states that a temporary restraining order is only available when the facts “clearly show that immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage will result to movant before the adverse party can be heard in opposition.”
According to the document, Expedition believes that nothing in the complaint filed by the plaintiffs suggests any immediate and irreparable harm and states that the plaintiffs conceded that such construction would not even potentially start until August 2019.
The Expedition filing also states that the plaintiffs’ attorney did not meet the standards and failed to give reasonable notice.
Expedition Wind, LLC issued a statement regarding the lawsuit.
“In our initial review, the facts do not seem to support their claims. Further, parts of the filing appear to be incorrect and improper. As such, we dispute all their claims and we will have our answer(s) in cooperation (sic) the County, very quickly. Expedition Wind has been proceeding, under the review of the County, to seek its project permit(s). We expect this process to continue unabated and as currently scheduled.”
The statement goes on to accuse the Plaintiffs of delivering some disturbing messages to the county as well as accuse them of attempts to “bully and intimidate Expedition project landowners. Expedition also states the need to return to a more civil process where the decisions rest with elected officials.
There are no dates for hearings set yet. There had been a meeting set regarding the wind power topic for the Zoning and Planning Committee on June 3, but it is not clear if that meeting will still happen. We will keep you updated as details unfold.
For those who want to learn more about wind power specifically related to Marion County, there is a group called the Marion County Wind Power Watch. They can be found on Facebook or at https://windpowerwatch.wixsite.com/website. Or for more information go to www.wiseenergy.org.