The Riley County Planning Board/Board of Zoning Appeals earlier this week unanimously recommended denial of a proposed electrical substation in the Ashland Township near the Konza Prairie Biological Station.

More than 90 people, including nearby landowners and other residents attended a Monday hearing, many voicing opposition, citing proximity to a nearby cemetery, the preservation of the scenic area near the Konza Prairie and other factors. The board concurred, noting the proposal doesn’t fit criteria of its Vision 2025 Comprehensive Plan, most notably a section that outlines agricultural preservation and rural character.

Board member Diane Hoobler was on the 2009 task force that crafted that plan.

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Board Chair John Wienck agreed with the sentiments of nearby landowners.

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Evergy is seeking approval of a Special Use permit for the tract of land near the intersection of Konza Prairie Lane and McDowell Creek Road. The company says it would increase the reliability, serviceability and load of Evergy’s electrical system in the City of Manhattan, Riley County and surrounding areas. Evergy Manager of Permitting and Civil Engineering Jessica Keck spoke to the project’s footprint.

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Evergy reportedly looked at many sites in the area before finding a willing property owner who agreed on the switching station to be located on about 2 and a half acres. Board member Hoobler asked why the company didn’t seek land near an existing substation by Stagg Hill, north of the Kansas River. Evergy spokesman Aaron Spreer says it wouldn’t provide a backup feed in the event of an outage.

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Evergy’s request now goes to the Riley County Board of County Commissioners May 1 for a final decision.

According to a Wednesday release, if the request is approved May 1, Evergy’s acquisition of the property would be planned for mid-2023, with construction to begin at the end of 2024. Completion of the substation would be expected by June 2026. If the request is denied, Evergy may re-apply at a future date. There is a process in place to appeal the Governing Body’s final decision.