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  • Last modified 25 days ago (May 23, 2019)

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Wind farm opponents make good on threat of lawsuit

Staff writer

Opponents of a wind farm proposed for the southern portion of the county have made good on their threats to sue the company that hopes to develop it.

A petition was filed Thursday in district court by Overland Park lawyers Robert Harken and Robert Titus on behalf of 15 wind farm opponents. The petition seeks a judge’s review, declaratory relief, and a temporary restraining order. It also claims the state open records act was violated.

Harken declined to discuss the 19-page petition.

“At this point — without conferring with my clients first — I’m not going to make any comments at this time,” Harken said.

Titus did not return a call.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are 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, Jeffrey Soyez, and Charles Loewen.

Defendants in the lawsuit are Expedition Wind, LLC, Marion County commissioners, and the county clerk.

The lawsuit seeks:

  • A judge’s review of two 2016 amendments to county zoning regulations.
  • That wind energy approvals earlier granted by the county be set aside.
  • A restraining order to prevent wind farm developers from commencing construction work.
  • A court order that the county clerk to remove a disclaimer from its record request forms.

The lawsuit also seeks to recapture costs, attorney’s fees, and any other relief the court deems fair.

A hearing on a conditional use permit application submitted by Wayzata, Minnesota-based National Renewable Solutions for a 100-tower Expedition Wind Farm is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 3 at Marion Community Center Ballroom.

News of the lawsuit caused a Friday afternoon commission meeting to be cut short when county counselor Brad Jantz ended a discussion of planning and zoning article 27 before it began.

“There has been litigation filed — there’s a lawsuit against the county,” Jantz told commissioners.

Jantz said commissioners should not discuss article 27 in a public forum and said that planned discussion needed to be tabled.

Pat Pelstring, CEO of NRS, said that the company does not believe the plaintiffs’ claims are supported by facts.

“Parts of the filing appear to be incorrect and improper,” Pelstring said. “As such, we dispute all their claims.”

Pelstring said the lawsuit has sent a disturbing message to county residents that the county governance process is not to be trusted.

“They believe that your land and your land rights are not under your own control, and this lawsuit would take decision-making authority away from your elected officials and local advisory boards,” Pelstring said.

“Many of the plaintiffs live several miles from our project. And some of these same plaintiffs have even attempted to bully and intimidate Expedition project landowners. This must stop and we need to return to a more civil process and where these decisions rest with your elected officials.”

Wichita lawyer Jeffrey Jordan, representing NRS, filed an objection Sunday to any ex-parte order that would prevent NRS from beginning construction work without NRS being heard first.

Last modified May 23, 2019

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