After hearing from more than a dozen citizens at a special meeting held Monday night, the Northfield Planning Commission unanimously gave its recommendation for one wind turbine to be built, but decided against a second.
After reviewing plans by Carleton College to construct a second wind generator one mile northwest of its current 1.65-megawatt turbine, the seven-member commission agreed that the conditional use permit looked to be fully in compliance.
“We didn’t see any issues with the CUP from Carleton College,” said Tracy Davis, the chair of the Planning Commission and liaison to the council. “We didn’t go as far as urging the City Council to recommend the project, but we don’t anticipate any problems moving forward.”
That wasn’t the case with the proposed two 400-foot wind turbines that would be located a half-mile southeast of Northfield city limits in Northfield Township. The vote was 4-3 against recommending the project. The two proposed 1.8- to 2.0-megawatt turbines would be developed by Spring Creek Wind LLC.
The Rice County Board of Commissioners, which has final approval on the project, put the CUP request on hold this month at the request of Interim City Administrator Tim Madigan.
Davis said that while the development of wind energy turbines in the urban reserve area is compatible with the city’s comprehensive plan, the Planning Commission is concerned that the location of the proposed turbines may constrain Northfield’s development options on its southeastern edge.
While the proposed setback meets state statutes, Davis said, a growing body of evidence has shown that those distances are inadequate, which factored into the decision.
“I think we would have been fine if they could locate the turbine farther back,” Davis said. “If the city grows out to its boundary line, which should happen in the next 10 to 30 years, that line would only be 1,700 feet from the turbine.”
From the commission’s decision, the council could decide to write a letter recommending support of granting the CUP or rejecting it, to pass on to Rice County.
Second Ward City Councilor Betsey Buckheit said she was “a little surprised” by the Planning Commission’s decision coming down to a bigger setback for the proposed project. She thought there were other issues to take into account as well.
“I thought preserving agricultural land would come up in the discussion, but it didn’t,” Buckheit said. “I think the commission did a good job of taking the evidence it had and made a good recommendation.”
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