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Public hearing on wind farm delayed

Staff writer

A public hearing on a proposed wind farm, originally scheduled for tonight, will be delayed until after the company working to develop it submits a new conditional use permit application.

National Renewable Solutions, Wayzata, Minnesota, originally submitted a CUP application to the county planning and zoning department March 28. That application is comprised of a 1½-inch thick notebook containing the application and a 3-inch thick notebook with supporting information.

The proposed Expedition Wind Farm would have 100 wind turbines in an area spanning from Florence to Aulne to north of Peabody.

Jesse Hopkins-Hoel, vice president of development for NRS, said the application was very similar to one earlier submitted by developers of the Diamond Vista Wind Farm in the northern portion of the county.

County planning and zoning director Sharon Omstead asked NRS to clarify parts of the application and add details to information presented.

“What we agreed to do was resubmit the package,” he said. “We are in the process of presenting an application that is more inclusive. They want a more complete version of that, and we want to give them what they want.”

NRS officials say they hope to have a new application completed and submitted this week, he said.

“The date for the hearing will be set after that,” he said.

County commissioners are reviewing a section of county zoning regulations pertinent to wind farm overlay districts.

Commissioner Dianne Novak put a discussion on Monday’s agenda.

The subject of placing a moratorium on wind farms, often brought up by Novak and residents who object to the project, once again arose at Monday’s commission meeting.

Novak told commissioners Randy Dallke and Kent Becker she believes Article 27 of the county’s wind energy conversion systems overlay district regulations has inconsistencies that need to be addressed.

“My proposal to the board is that we put a moratorium to go back to planning and zoning,” Novak said.

She also said there had been violations in the way the wind farm proposal has been handled so far.

Novak went back as far as December 2016, saying records she reviewed made her believe the process was not done correctly then.

She asked Omstead if she had a copy of letters that were supposed to be sent to landowners in 2016. Omstead said she should have copies of them.

“Everybody should know I try real hard to do my homework,” Novak said. “I just don’t have the time to research all these things.”

“So are you saying some things are illegal?” Dallke asked.

Omstead said Novak should consult an attorney for an opinion on the legality of notification to homeowners.

Becker and Dallke agreed they wanted to run the issue by Pat Hughes, the attorney earlier hired to work on the Diamond Vista wind farm project in the northern part of the county.

“I’m not comfortable with being so one-sided on anything,” Dallke said.

“I’m not being one-sided,” Novak answered.

Nancy Tharp, who signed a contract for a wind turbine to be placed on her property, disagreed with Novak’s denial that she is being one-sided.

“I, prior to the signing of the contract, read every word of article 27,” Tharp said. “I read it and read it and read it. I don’t see you being a fair-minded gal. I watched you come in and slam these guys.”

Novak said she was trying to get information out because Dallke had to leave quickly, and contended that Becker had not researched the issue.

Becker answered that Novak had asked about articles not on the meeting agenda.

“I’m seeing get ’em, get ’em, hit ’em again,” Tharp said. She added that she wants discussion conducted in a non-biased way.

“What makes you think I’m biased?” Novak asked.

“Just last week we agreed to withdraw our current application for a CUP and submit a new one,” NRS president and CEO Pat Pelstring said. “We’ll make our case. You’ve got five very qualified people on the planning and zoning board to make a decision.”

Pelstring said he disagrees with what Novak said about a moratorium, and that if a moratorium stretches the project out for months, there will be no project.

Jonah Gehring, a Hillsboro city councilman and candidate for county commission, said he’s seen some of the opponents present week after week, and it would be good to see both sides of the issue at commission meetings. People need to come together to discuss it, Gehring said.

“With regard to the meeting on Monday, we’re pleased the commissioners were able to hear from a couple of the many local supporters of our project because these are the folks who are going to be actually living in the wind farm,” Pelstring said Tuesday.

Last modified April 25, 2019

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