I attended a meeting of the Kingman County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) on Monday September 24, 2012. The BZA is comprised of nine (9) appointed members. Their decision significantly and adversely impacted the property rights of many of Kingman’s property owners.
In this meeting the BZA was taking up an application for a “Special Use” which was filed by British Petroleum’s Wind Energy (BPWE) subsidiary. BP wanted to install industrial wind turbines on multiple tracts of land comprising in total over 1800 acres. This is one stage of a 66,000 acre planned project by BPWE.
An industrial wind generation facility (WGF) qualifies for the heavy industry category but BPWE wants to build its WGF on property zoned for general agricultural so BP had to get Kingman County to change the zoning. This is where things get a bit strange.
The zoning regulations were “amended” in 2010 to add a provision within the General Agriculture (“A-1”) zoning regulations just for industrial wind generating facilities. [1.] Although the new WGF regulation is called a “special use” it is in fact a re-zoning provision i.e. can cover multiple tracts of property and generally relates to re-zoning (“zoning change”) in an area in general. [2.]
But, unlike the regular re-zoning provision, which requires such go through the Planning Commission (PC) and then through the County Commission, the “Special use” (re-zoning) provision only goes through the BZA. [3.] According to the City’s Planning consultant, Riggs Associates, the only appeal from the BZA for this type of re-zoning is by way of a court challenge which of course would be expensive.
Also Zoning variances and special uses relate to a single tract of land and such must be applied
for by the owner of the property. [4.] However, the new WGF regulation allows such to be filed by the “Applicant/ Developer.” In other words the new WGF regulation makes it easier quicker and more efficient for the “Developer” of a WGF than for a developer of any other energy generation source. It also impacts the property owner and puts him at a disadvantage when dealing with a predatory developer of a WGF compared to anyone else that may want to use the property owner’s property.
One has to wonder what the inducement was for and who was behind amending the zoning regulations in a fashion so favorable to BP and to the disadvantage of citizen property owners of Kingman Country right at the time BPWE wanted to build its 66,000 acre wind generating facility on the farms of many of the Kingman County citizens.
One of the BPWE representatives indicated that it voluntarily paid the County a onetime $300,000 payment and would be voluntarily paying the County about $390,000 annually.
The other thing that is extremely shocking and disappointing is who was allowed to adversely impact our fellow citizens property rights i.e., unelected persons who were appointed to the board and who are not accountable to the citizens. A fundamental principle of American governance is that our government should be (must be) by those we elect who are directly accountable to us to be responsive to us and representative of our wants within the bounds of the Constitution and laws. The BZA is not a republican form of government and should never have such power over the citizens’ rights. For a non-elected council to have such authority is more in line with the soviets of the old USSR.
Under the American system of government the first and primary responsibility of the government (any government) is to protect and preserve the fundamental rights of the citizens to life, Liberty and property. The government has no direct responsibility to special interests including commercial interests and including to developers of wind generating systems including BPWE. Unfortunately that was not the case with the BZA on September 24, 2012.
1. Addendum To Article VII “S” Kingman County Zoning Regulations Commercial Wind Farm Application Guidelines (9/20/2010)
2. Addendum To Article VII “S” §1
2. Zoning Regulations for Kingman County, Kansas (10/05/2007) (See Article XXXIV Amendments.)
4. Zoning Regulations Article IV §3. 1. and 2.