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Wind farm resistance begins again

Staff writer

No sooner was a settlement announced with a company that sued the county in 2018 for the right to apply for a construction permit to build a third wind farm than a county resident showed up Monday to tell commissioners that he objects.

Tom Britain, a staunch opponent of development of the second wind farm, Sunflower, from when predecessor company National Renewable Solutions began moving forward on development, complained Monday that he did not get answers to questions he asked commissioners a year ago.

“My constitutional rights were violated,” Britain said.

The questions were about conditional use permits expiring, he said.

Britain was one of a slate of wind farm opponents who filed three lawsuits hoping to block development of what at the time was called Expedition Wind, later sold to Danish company Orsted, which renamed the project Sunflower Wind.

Opponents’ suits against Sunflower began in 2019.

Emotions ran so high that at one point another opponent fired a gun toward the ground in front of surveyors working for the wind farm. She later was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault.

Lawsuits came to a halt after Sunflower sued the opponents for $35 million that its property owners lost from delays in issuing production tax credits.

Sunflower said five who had filed suit didn’t have standing because their land was outside the area approved for wind farm development.

Many other opponents were dismissed from Sunflower’s suit after accepting settlements from the wind farm company.

Some defendants in Sunflower’s suit, like Britain, merely dropped out.

Britain said he’d spent $80,000.

“I got sued for $35 million,” he said.

Commissioners heard Britain out Monday but had no response for him.

In the recently settled suit, plaintiff Roger Buller claimed county zoning director Sharon Omstead had been wrong when she deemed that Buller’s company, Stonebridge Investments, did not have standing to install turbines south of US-50 in an area within a Flint Hills wind farm moratorium.

Buller had purchased in 2015 rights to conditional use permits held by original developer Rex Savage.

In 2018, the county required companies to apply for building permits that year.

Buller claimed that the county didn’t send Stonebridge written notice of the change. He submitted four applications for building permit extensions in 2020. All were denied.

The suit was settled with an agreement to give Buller and Stonebridge one year to apply for building permits. He did not get $75,000 he asked for.

Last modified July 12, 2023

 

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