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Wind farm approval process might change

Staff writer

Future wind farms — and one with an approved conditional use permit — were discussed at Monday’s county commission meeting.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said he’d listened to enough discussion about, and opposition to, development of Expedition Wind Farm, and said some of the comments made by opponents should perhaps be considered in future wind farm propositions.

Although Expedition’s proposal was processed according to current planning and zoning regulations, Dallke said perhaps the plan should be reconsidered so more steps are taken during the planning commission’s consideration.

Wind farm opponents had earlier called for a county vote on whether to grant the wind farm company’s request for a permit.

“My personal opinion is, as I’ve heard enough opinion, is to put it back to a vote,” Dallke said. “Maybe in time there would be another project in the west side of the county. I’m just opening this up. Is there any interest in doing that? I think there is.”

Commissioner Dianne Novak said Dallke’s idea is “too little, too late,” and the wind farm proposal “should have been stopped before it got to this point.”

Novak said Reno County is now being sued by a wind farm company after the county denied its conditional use permit application.

Novak contended some Tampa residents are dissatisfied with the Diamond Vista Wind Farm in the northern portion of the county but don’t want to come forward to voice their dissatisfaction.

Commission chairman Kent Becker said that approval of Expedition Wind’s conditional use permit was done in accordance with county regulations.

“Why did you disregard the people’s request?” Novak asked.

“That’s what we have planning and zoning for,” Becker said.

Dallke said maybe the county needs to look at its plan.

One observer said county commissioners were required to have planning and zoning commission minutes before making a decision, and did not.

“How could you make a decision?” she asked.

“Do you want to continue to sit and argue the past or do you want to talk about the future?” Dallke said.

“We had rules and regulations, and they were not followed,” Novak said.

Novak refused to sign a resolution approving the conditional use permit commissioners passed last week on a split vote, with Novak opposed.

“We’re pleased with the result of our approved CUP and look forward to working with the community as we step through the final design phases and future construction of the Expedition Wind project,” said Pat Pelstring, CEO of National Renewable Solutions, the company developing Expedition Wind Farm.

The option of having a vote on future wind farm applications seemingly was discussed in a closed session with county counsel Brad Jantz at the end of the meeting. When open session resumed, commissioners voted to give Jantz approval to look for other attorneys who are well versed in wind farm applications.

“It seems to me we had uninformed and ignorant people making decisions that destroy Marion County,” said wind farm opponent Tom Britton during public comments.

“The commission discussion today was clearly intended to be about future wind development and Expedition has no current plans or abilities for an expansion project at this time,” Pelstring said.

Opponents filed a petition in court July 11 seeking a judicial review of the planning commission’s June 10 decision.

According to the petition, the planning and zoning commission is required to make an accurate written summary of the proceedings of public hearings, and mail written notice of a proposed amendment to all landowners of property within at least 1,000 feet of the area proposed to be altered.

Plaintiffs contend a 1,000 foot buffer zone around the wind farm project “was arbitrarily drawn” and “is specifically designed to prevent nearby landowners from filing a property protest to” the conditional use permit.

They also contend the plan was approved without a definitive statement as to the number and size of turbines to be installed, an identified path for the connecting line to the power grid, and the expected life of the field. They claim no easement agreement, road maintenance plan, security bond for road maintenance, decommissioning plan, Payment in Lieu of Taxes plan, designated site for blade repair were submitted, and that supporting documentation from conditional use permits earlier granted while the project was being worked on by a predecessor company “are nonexistent or woefully out of date.”

Pelstring said the company is aware of the second lawsuit, although it is not a named defendant.

“We continue to monitor closely, but our legal team suggests this suit lacks substantial merit and is also likely to be thrown out by the judge,” he said.

Last modified July 17, 2019

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