By Charlene Sims, email@example.com
MOUND CITY – On Tuesday, Jan. 16, solar utility opponent Mark Briggs and Linn County Commissioner Jim Johnson brought up the regulations that the ad hoc committee has been working on and the planned forum on solar utilities in Linn County.
Johnson said that he had been contacted concerning the public forum for solar regulations. He said he wanted to make sure the information got out to people, so he wanted to put an ad on the front page of the Linn County News and also put it several times in the Linn County Journal.
Johnson said he also had reached out to Jayhawk USD 346 Superintendent Shawn Thomas, who said that the school district would post it on their notification system. Johnson suggested that the other two commissioners reach out to their districts’ superintendents.
Emergency Management Director Randy Hegwald offered to put it on the Everbridge notification system. This is the system emergency management uses for weather warnings.
Commissioner Danny McCullough said he would like to see it put on the digital sign at the main entrance of the biggest city in that district.
Johnson asked if the county could put flyers at businesses in Linn County.
Johnson asked if the time for the public forum had been scheduled yet.
Planning and Zoning Director Darin Wilson said that nothing had been scheduled yet, and he was going to discuss the plans with the planning and zoning committee on Wednesday night, Jan. 17.
Wilson said as soon as he confirmed the rental of the auditorium at Prairie View, he planned on setting out the date about 30 days so that the information would have time to get out to the public.
Wilson explained the timeline. He said that after the public forum, and the planning board makes the changes depending on what route the board goes, then there will have to be a public hearing which has to have a 20-day notice. Then the planning board will vote, and if there are any changes, it will be brought to the commission to vote on.
County Counselor Gary Thompson explained that the ad hoc committee would discuss this, argue it out, and present it to planning and zoning. After that, planning and zoning would make findings and recommendations based on the discussions with the ad hoc committee. If their recommendation is to make a change then they have to have a public hearing.
After the public hearing, they either keep the decision they made or based on comments from public hearing, make changes. Then they vote on that set of changes. And, if they vote to approve that set of changes, it comes to the commission.
Commission Chair Jason Hightower answered Briggs who was talking from the audience that the commission had left it to the ad hoc committee to set that up.
Briggs came to the podium asked, “Is it ethically right or morally right to continue to work on the regulations when we don’t have the public’s input. Are we just wasting our time because if we were very decided on how we wanted to do it?
“Should we continue to work on the regulations or not because the last thing we want to do is waste everybody’s time if it was a possibility that it wouldn’t be a prohibition or if we just had so much public input that would change a lot of the regulations like if people’s requirements of what they spoke about were a lot different than what we have been working on we’d be basically starting over again.”
Hightower said that his opinion is that the ad hoc committee needs to be discussing the points, because those are the points on which the planning commission and county commission will make decisions.
He told Briggs that was his opportunity to discuss those items with the planners.
“I don’t think so,” said Briggs.
Hightower told Briggs that their time on the ad hoc committee was when people who opposed solar could present their findings and research that show that the setbacks and other issues in the regulations are incorrect.
Johnson jumped in to explain what Briggs was saying.
“Is the planning and zoning board even looking at a prohibition or are we just saying we want regulations?” asked Johnson.
Thompson said, “What you have to do is review the regulations to decide if they will need to be changed. If that change includes we don’t think there should be a ban on solar, then they should bring that to you.”
Johnson said that the commission needed to make it clear to the ad hoc committee what it wanted and inferred that he favors the ban.
“We just need to ask them if they want to continue with this, or do you want to wait until the public forum?” said Johnson.
Briggs said, “Legally, does it seem to be crazy to be making regulations that we may then put a prohibition on, because we are sitting there working on findings, right? And I don’t know, I feel like it is just a negotiation because that’s how it is but if you guys, if I want a prohibition, because I truly believe the county needs it.”
Briggs continued that he thought that the county already had the findings to ban solar because the findings to ban wind are similar. He said that if he says in the ad hoc meeting that he wants a prohibition that doesn’t go over real good. He stressed that the committee needed to wait for more public comment because public comment is a huge part of the findings for which way to go.
Hightower said he thought the planning board should keep having the discussions. McCullough agreed that the solar opponents representatives should go to the ad hoc meeting and express their opinions.