The Sawyer County Zoning Committee last Friday tabled a motion on a proposed $14 million expansion to American Transmission Company’s Stone Lake substation.
ATC representatives explained how the proposed construction will take place, including the addition of over 172,000 square feet to the facility as well as the construction of a four-acre, 90,000-square-foot permanent substation on the southside of the property. Many adjoining property owners attended Friday’s meeting to voice concerns against ATC’s proposal, signaling that the approval of such an expansion would not only be an eyesore, but that property values would also decrease.
Residents cited the after-the-fact construction as pushing the envelope, with one property owner stating the company did not explain the proposed substation expansion in their outline provided to effected landowners when the powerline was erected.
“I’m bothered by the way this unfolded,” said committee member Kathy McCoy. “This was not well thought out by ATC.”
Town of Bass Lake supervisor Phil Nies recognized that the township had approved ATC’s conditional use application for the project and added that “(the station) would be out of sight” and that “the town is very much in favor” of giving ATC the green light.
After a vote to table ATC’s application, McCoy stated that “we just need more time to digest the whole thing,” while fellow committee member Fred Zeitlow said the county should consider allowing the project “for the greater good” and that he “couldn’t support getting in their (ATC’s) way.”
Committee chair James Bassett questioned ATC as to whether its proposed expansion could be veiled with shrubs or trees to conceal it further, but ATC responded by stating that the entire facility is on a steep grade above ground level so it might take many years for trees to mature to that height.
In other business, concerns about the county’s proposed wind ordinance were also discussed at the meeting. The wind ordinance has been on the table for many months, after public comment in January forced the document’s revision.
Committee member Arlene Mizerka mentioned her concerns as to the impacts of wind farms versus individual-use wind turbines.
“(The ordinance) should not encourage wind farms, but individuals should have the right to a source of alternative energy,” she said.
McCoy seconded that notion, pointing out that since we are an environmentally-conscious community, “for us to say “˜no turbines’ would be backward – we’re just saying no large wind farms.” She added that the area is not suitable for such an operation.
As of right now, the county has no existing ordinance in place to regulate the construction of wind turbines.
“We still need more input,” Nies said. Though a proponent of a wind ordinance, he has said that there are outstanding environmental and aesthetic concerns about putting up permanent wind turbines across the county.
In June, the zoning committee will set a special meeting for July before another public hearing on the proposed wind ordinance is held in August. At this point, the committee continues to seek an unbiased expert in the field to help them understand the impacts of wind turbines.
In a final matter of new business, the committee is exploring regulating land use for properties within three miles of the Hayward airport, which is due to the near-term projects at the airport.
“My focus is on the immediate project, not so much beyond three miles out,” said zoning administrator Bill Christman.
The county may have access to a $50,000 grant to put such an ordinance in effect.
By Will LaBreche
Sawyer County Record
21 March 2007
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