Kansas SC upholds ban on wind farms

Chris Rizo Oct. 31, 2009, 7:25pm

Lawton Nuss

TOPEKA, Kan. (Legal Newsline)- The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday that Wabaunsee County commissioners may bar the construction of wind farms in their community.

In an update of the Wabaunsee County Comprehensive Plan of 1974, the commissioners in 2004 adopted a zoning ordinance that banned commercial wind farms in the scenic Flint Hills.

The state's high court affirmed the ordinance in a unanimous decision authored by Justice Lawton Nuss. Among other questions, the court was asked to determine whether the county commissioners followed law in adopting the ordinance.

"Today's ruling on the issues is the first in Kansas and perhaps in the country where the construction of commercial wind farms as an alternative energy source is being pitted against landowners seeking undisturbed vistas of their wind-swept countryside," Supreme Court spokesman Ron Keefover said in a statement.

In its ruling, the high court expressed some concern that the county ordinance banning Commercial Wind Energy Conversion Systems, or CWECS, does not extend to smaller wind generators for personal use.

The justices said the exception might violate the U.S. Constitution.

Opponents of commercial wind farms have argued that turbines, some of which are hundreds of feet tall, would disrupt the natural beauty of the Flint Hills, which is home to the last remaining unplowed tallgrass prairie in the nation.

Meanwhile, proponents of the wind farms say the region has the potential of generating vast amounts of so-called clean electricity.

At trial, District Court Judge Tracy Klinginsmith had ruled that wind farms with towers 120 feet in height or more would be "incompatible with the rural, agricultural, and scenic character of the county," as the ordinance states.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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