The courtroom at the Grant County Courthouse was standing room only today at a special meeting conducted by the Grant County Commissioners. The meeting... Standing Room Only at Grant County Commissioners Meeting

The courtroom at the Grant County Courthouse was standing room only today at a special meeting conducted by the Grant County Commissioners. The meeting was called to discuss the county zoning regulations regarding wind energy systems and the necessity of a review of the regulations and request for recommendations by the Grant County Planning and Zoning Board.

The current zoning regulations were enacted in early 2009 and state there is a 1000-foot setback from a tower to a home or building. Concerns were raised from people who are not participating with the wind energy companies and have no control over where the towers are being placed or how close they are being positioned to their homes and outbuildings.

Kelly Owen spoke representing a group of concerned citizens. According to Owen, the group is not opposed to economic development or even the erection of the towers. Their reluctance, he said, comes from believing citizens should have more of a voice about their placement. They want Planning and Zoning to receive input from all individuals impacted by the towers, and not just participating landowners.

Owen also addressed the commissioners, “Things have changed in the last 15 years in this industry. Your setbacks were purposed in 2004 when the towers were 300 feet tall. They are now almost twice that. One thousand feet is not enough.” Owen went on to state, “I’m not going to tell anybody else what to do with their own land, if you want one fine, but would you want one within 1000 feet of your back door? Or, as in my case, several of them? And I’ve got no say!”

The commissioners also listened to Todd Case, Executive Director of the First Planning District. Case pointed out most of the counties in the area first made these regulations around 2000, but recently have changed their setbacks. Roberts County has a one-fourth mile setback and Clay County doesn’t allow wind energy. Codington County has a 1000-foot setback, as does Grant County, but is looking to change that regulation to 1500 feet from property line versus to a structure. Case cautioned if Planning and Zoning is not aware of any discontent, things will continue using current regulations.

Not all attendees, however, were against the current wind energy regulations. Longtime resident and landowner Leonard Stengel said, “The commission is doing a good job listening to complaints and making adjustments.” He said he believes “wind companies are also doing a good job in preparing people for what is coming.” Stengel said he is “thrilled about the project. It is good for the community, schools, county, and townships – all who need the money.” “Farming hasn’t been the greatest in the past few years with prices the way they are,” stated Stengel. “And I’d like to see this move forward as fast as possible to give these people the additional income they are hoping they can get.”

No towers are scheduled to be built in Grant County this year, but there are two permits in place with a third in process. The regulations are unchangeable for permits already approved by the commissioners, and a moratorium is the only way possible to change others coming in, according to Mark Reedstrom, attorney for Grant County. Reedstrom said the rules in play control current applications, and that will not change unless measures are put into actions. He advised the proper course of action is to refer to the Planning and Zoning board, who are considered the authority on county use regulation.

Reedstrom also advised a public hearing would be required to implement a moratorium. None of the three motions presented to enact a moratorium received seconds. The motions were denied.

Case recommended the zoning board looks at lighting, noise, setbacks, flicker, and decommission. He also suggested the public needs an opportunity to address the board with their concerns. “There are currently regulations in place that aren’t up to modern practices,” he said. He stressed looking into ordinances and establishing policy as opposed to making policy too quickly.

Commissioner Street made a motion to request a review of the WES portion of the ordinance by the Grant County Planning and Zoning board. (As a landowner within the areas in question, Dummann abstained.) The motion carried 4 – 0.

Staff Writer

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *