Section 12-306-44 Wind Energy Conversion Systems
Adopted in 2016
Proposed Revised Regulations
TA-22-00031 Wind Energy Conversion Systems
Text Amendment initiated by Planning Commission
#1st Draft Public Comment Period 12/7/2022 – 2/5/2023
View Draft Here
The Lawrence Douglas County Planning Commission directed Planning staff to review the existing regulations for Wind Energy Conversion Systems (or WECS) in January of 2022. This came from an interest in better aligning the wind-regulations with that of the recently adopted solar-regulations.
A Wind Energy Conversion System (WECS) is a system of wind-driven generators that convert wind energy into electrical power. Individual machines are also referred to as a turbine, wind tower, windmill, or wind pump. A WECS may be for personal or commercial use, these two varying uses are referred to as P-WECS and C-WECS, respectively.
There are existing regulations which regulate the development of WECS in Section 12-306-44 of the Douglas County Zoning and Land Use Regulations. The Lawrence Douglas County Planning Commission and County Commission approved this text amendment 2016 through Resolution No. 17-12. View the existing regulations.
Prior to these regulations being adopted, the only zoning regulations governing this use (of commercial or personal wind turbines) would have been through assessing a WECS proposal as if it was a Wireless Communication Tower as a proxy.
Since the adoption of Section 12-306-44 there have been no proposals for a commercial- scale wind farm in the Unincorporated Territory of Douglas County.
Why Revise the Regulations?
After the Lawrence Douglas County Planning Commission directed Planning staff to review the existing regulations, staff spent many months researching best practices, reviewing nearby regulations adopted by other communities, and discussed industry standards with professionals.
The draft revised regulations are intended to follow the style of the recently adopted Solar Regulations, 12-306-49. They provide additional information within the P-WECS section creating greater clarity for staff and applicants who have interest in developing personal windmills on their property.
Staff was also asked to draft language which would implement additional design standards for any commercial scale wind farm operations, and propose an extensive application which would require studies to assess visual impacts, noise impacts, infrastructure impacts, and environmental impacts of any proposed turbine sites. The draft revised regulations also propose language to establish assurances within the commercial-scale wind farm section to create a system where the developer is responsible for impact to roads. It also establishes a process for mitigation in responses to community concerns/complaints, and a thorough plan for decommissioning and reclamation.
Some of the guiding standards staff used while drafting the commercial-scale revised wind regulations were to:
- Ensure the land remains viable for agricultural uses during the life of the C-WECS Project and following decommissioning;
- Minimize the impact on nearby properties;
- Minimize the degradation of the visual character of the area;
- Minimize negative environmental impacts;
- Promote the safe, effective, and efficient use of C-WECS, and;
- Facilitate the supply of renewable energy in a manner that respects the economic, geographic, social, and environmental context of Douglas County.
It should be noted that there have been no applications for commercial-scale wind turbines as of revising these regulations. Any private-interest which has discussed private leases or agreements with members of the community have not submitted anything to the County Zoning and Codes office or the City Planning office. There are no applications under review at this time for C-WECS.
Written comments can be mailed to:
Lawrence Planning Office
Attn: Wind Regs
1 Riverfront Plaza, Suite 320
Lawrence, KS 66044
Sandy Day and Cece Riley are available via phone to answer questions regarding the Planning process at 785-832-7700
How to Get Involved!
The first draft of the revised regulations were published on 12/07/2022, you can view the draft here. Members of the public are encouraged to submit any comments or suggestions regarding the draft language to firstname.lastname@example.org.
5/22/23: A Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for Monday May 22nd, 2023 at 6:30PM in the City Commission Chambers at Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. 6th Street. This meeting will include an update from the Ad Hoc Committee and Discussion of proposed changes to the WECS Regulations. Planning staff expects this discussion to focus on the first few “subsections” of the draft regulations. However, this agenda has not yet been set and this discussions focus is subject to change pending the direction giving by the Ad Hoc Committee.
12-306-44.02 Personal – Wind Energy Conversion System (P-WECS),
12-306-44.03 (C-WECS) Purpose, Intent of Regulations, Review and Approval Process, etc.
12-306-44.03.01 (C-WECS) Key Considerations
**Regarding the Ad Hoc Committee future meetings and how the public can get involved — Planning staff will update this website with any opportunities for public engagement as soon as they’re available. At this time there are no scheduled meetings for the committee.
Please check frequently on this website for updates.
3/20/23: A Planning Commission meeting was held Monday March 20th at 6:30PM in the City Commission Chambers at Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. 6th Street. This meeting included a public comment portion and a review of the definition section of the WECS Regulations. At this meeting the Planning Commissioners voted 8-0 to form an Ad Hoc Commitee of four members (Commissioners Thomas, Kelso, Duuver, Rexroad) who will volunteer their time outside of the regularly scheduled Planning Commission meetings to conduct further research, discuss, and propose changes to the Revised WECS Regulations. This committee will report their findings and reccomendations to the Planning Commission over the next several months where planning staff expects a draft #2 of the Revised WECS Regulation be written and put out for public comment. View the Agenda. Watch the recording.
3/8/23: A mid-month Planning Commission meeting was held March 8th, 2023 for the Planning Commission to discuss the public comment received during the 60-day public comment period for the first draft of the Revised WECS Regulations. This meeting is not a public hearing and there will be no vote taken, rather it is a “study session” for staff and the planning commission. View the Agenda Item Report. Watch the recording.
2/1/23: A Board of County Commissioners meeting was held February 1, 2023 to discuss a Temporary Business Use permit for one (1) meteorological evaluation tower (MET) and four (4) SoDAR units in the southwestern portion of Douglas County. The staff report can be viewed here. Watch the recording.
1/30/23: Staff hosted an open house on Monday January 30th from 2pm-7pm in the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning office. This was an in-person open house hosted to gather additional comments on the regulations and identify shared values between community members. Three topics were chosen to focus the discussion: Setback, Height, and Noise. In order to provide members of the public who were not able to come to the open house the same opportunity we’ve created an online survey with the same questions. The data gathered from these polls will be supplied to the Planning Commission within their next communications packet.
1/23/23: A Planning Commission meeting was held on Monday January 23rd, 2023 in the City Commission Chambers at Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. 6th Street. This meeting included a presentation by planning staff highlighting the proposed application section of the draft revised WECS regulations as well as a discussion of the community meeting held on 1/12/23. This meeting included a public comment portion and discussion of next steps. No vote was taken at this meeting. View the Agenda. Watch the recording.
1/12/23: Staff hosted a Community Meeting to discuss the revised regulations and provide an additional opportunity for members of the community to meet staff, ask clarifying questions, and learn more about the revised regulations. Over 100 people were in attendance and after a brief presentation from staff, many questions were asked and suggestions were given for how the regulations may better align with community values and concerns. View the presentation. View community suggestions. View community questions.
12/19/22: The Planning Commission discussed the Revised Wind Energy Conversion System Regulations at their regular business meeting on December 19th, 2022. Staff asked the planning commission to “receive” the draft revised regulations, but no vote was taken regarding adoption. This meeting included a public comment portion and discussion of next steps. Watch the recording of the meeting. View the agenda. View the presentation.
12/14/22: A mid-month Planning Commission meeting was held December 14th, 2022, for the Planning Commission to discuss the first draft of the revisions proposed for the Wind Energy Conversion System Regulations (WECS). This meeting was not a public hearing and there was no vote taken, rather it was a “study session” for staff and the planning commission. Watch the recording of the meeting. View the presentation.
11/30/22: A Board of County Commissioners meeting was held November 30th, 2022 to discuss a Temporary Business Use permit for a 60.26-meter Meteorological Evaluation Tower (MET) at the intersection of N 450 Road and E 200 Road. MET towers are used to collect data on the weather patterns of a specific site to gauge the viability of wind energy projects. The permit was approved with conditions, watch the recording of the meeting.
The U.S. Wind Turbine Database: https://eerscmap.usgs.gov/uswtdb/U.S. Department of Energy FAQ’s: https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/frequently-asked-questions-about-wind-energy
How a Wind Turbine Works: https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/how-wind-turbine-works-text-version U.S. Fish and Wildlife Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines: https://www.fws.gov/media/land-based-wind-energy-guidelinesWind Energy in Kansas: https://windexchange.energy.gov/states/ks
Zoning and Land Use Regulations for the Unincorporated Territory of Douglas County, Kansas: https://www.douglascountyks.org/sites/default/files/media/depts/zoning-and-codes/pdf/zoning-and-land-use-regulations.pdf