Walter Kinzie says he will never lease his 46-acre property north of Edna to RWE, a German utility that’s exploring the possibility of developing a wind farm in Labette County.
Kinzie’s comments correct an error in a story in Tuesday’s Sun that said he does not want to consider signing the lease until the development is more lucrative for Labette County.
RWE is exploring the development of a wind farm that would have 50 to 75 turbines generating between 200 and 250 megawatts of power. The turbines could be 500 feet tall at the tip of the blade. RWE is collecting wind and weather information now, and this data will help determine turbine location, height and the number of turbines needed. RWE filings with a utility raise a question of the turbine count. Now, the proposed development footprint is set between 19000 Road and 8000 Road and Meade Road and Douglas Road.
Walter Kinzie is a son of Labette County Commissioner Brian Kinzie, who has faced claims questioning his ethics when it comes to exploring and possibly voting on the wind project. One issue that created some of those concerns is the 46.32-acre property that Walter Kinzie bought in 2018. This is because in 2019 Walter Kinzie received a call from an RWE representative discussing the possibility of leasing that land at 6000 Road and K-101, he said. He said he didn’t receive the paperwork for sometime after that one call and he didn’t open the paperwork until March 7.
Walter Kinzie said he supports renewable energy but is withholding his support of the Labette County development until he finds out what RWE can offer the county financially. Even then, he said, he will not lease his land to RWE.
He hopes this will clear up some questions about his father’s work as a commissioner in investigating the wind development. Kinzie said he thinks his father is facing undue criticism on the issue. He repeated his father’s words that if he had to vote on the wind farm today he would vote no. Brian Kinzie has also stated he wants to sit down with RWE and find out what it can offer the county.
The 46-acre property formerly belonged to Walter Kinzie’s grandfather, Warren Mitchell.
Mitchell bought the 77-acre parcel seven decades ago. He built a house, barns, ponds and a 4-acre garden on it over the years, Walter Kinzie said. Mitchell did not like debt and believed in working hard to earn enough to buy something on his own, he said. Kinzie said he used to help his grandfather fix fences, plant trees, work in the garden there. They sometimes fished together.
Kinzie raised livestock on the farm for 4-H. He learned how to drive there.
“So many of my memories of my childhood, where I learned hard work, giving back, supporting my community,” Kinzie said. “There’s so many great memories there.”
Mitchell was famous for his produce, Kinzie said, including blackberries. Kinzie said he helped pick those berries, eating as he went.
“I just grew up eating that stuff. It’s always a special memory when I can go back and do that,” Kinzie said.
Mitchell died in 2007 and the land was later sold.
Kinzie heard from his mother that part of the acreage was up for sale and he purchased it in March 2018. The person who sold the 46-acre tract kept 30-some acres with the homestead.
Kinzie’s Encore Live, an event management company based in Fort Worth, Texas, produced two drive-in concerts on the 46 acres during the COVID-19 pandemic. These concerts were screened in other venues across the country.
The pandemic was tough on Kinzie’s company. He said he was able to make payroll during the 13 months his business was largely shut down. He said he lost his home, cars and his office. He said thousands of families lost loved ones in the pandemic so he feels blessed his losses were only monetary.
“It’s been a humbling year to say the least,” he said. But he’s optimistic now as venues have reopened for concerts and entertainment. He has hope that the Save Our Stages Act, passed in December, will get the entertainment industry back on track.
He said he doesn’t have other plans for the Edna property unless he can eventually acquire the homestead. Then he would like for his parents to be able to move out there. He would like to operate the land as his grandfather did, opening it to other youth for raising their 4-H and FFA livestock.
Kinzie said he learned the benefit of community service there from his grandfather and his parents.
“I’m just trying to follow in their footsteps of a life of service and giving back,” Kinzie said.
Kinzie lives in Texas now, a state with a number of wind farms. Some communities have benefited from the developments, he said.
“I can tell you that these things are all over Texas,” Kinzie said of wind turbines. And if RWE can bring money into Labette County to help with the hospital, schools, law enforcement, fire departments and this money could lower taxes, “that’s something that we should think about, and that’s something that we should consider.”
“But this land’s never leaving my family again,” Kinzie said of the acreage he and his wife own.
He shared five points:
1. He will never have a wind turbine on that property.
2. He will never sign a lease with RWE.
3. He supports renewable energy.
4. He does not support the county wind development project as it stands.
5. “There’s not something that the commissioners will do one way or the other that’s going to dictate whether or not I personally think that this should happen to Labette County. I’m going to need to see what RWE is finally willing to do,” Kinzie said. He wants to find out what kind of money RWE would make on the project versus how much it would leave to the county. If it’s a respectable amount that will better the county, “then I’ll be their biggest fan saying ‘bring it on.’”
But the wind development will not be on his land north of Edna. “Nothing to do with these windmills will be done on my land,” he said.
If property surrounding his acreage has wind turbines, he would be fine with that. “So be it. I think they’re majestic. I think they’re beautiful. I would not have a single problem with there being windmills completely surrounding me. Not one bit. But this is my grandfather’s land,” he said.