For Bruce Anderson, Northfielders can take a lesson from George Orwell’s classic “Animal Farm.”
In the 1945 novel, an allegory which uses farm animals to depict the Stalinist pre World War II Soviet Union, Anderson noted during Tuesday’s City council discussion on recommendations on two wind turbine projects that the ruling-class pigs systematically reduced their guiding principles to one: All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.
“Opponents of the Spring Creek wind project want to be treated differently than other wind facilities have been treated in the immediate area,” he said, referring to the lack of opposition to two current wind turbines operating just outside city limits and a unanimous recommendation to approve a Carleton College wind turbine endorsed just minutes earlier.
And while Anderson, who has long supported wind energy, craftily squeaked in a reference to the story’s windmill, a symbol of the pigs’ manipulation of others to satisfy their greed, his citation of the novel seemed to hit home for several council members.
The one-turbine Carleton-backed project and the two turbines Spring Creek hopes to erect in Northfield Township southwest of the city both got council approval, through two councilors – Jim Pokorney and Rhonda Pownell – declined to back the Spring Creek project.Concerned about how the turbines could potentially dictate the city’s future growth, Pokorney felt that the city’s lack of planning in the area shouldn’t hinder its future.
The city’s Comprehensive Plan, which guides development, is mum on plans for the area, leading the community development director to infer Northfield expects the area between the city’s southern limits and County Road 81 to remain rural.
The Planning Commission, in a recommendation to the council on the projects, had concerns about the ability to ensure proper setbacks from possible turbines to residential areas.
But while Pownell found the proximity to future residential areas troubling, Councilors Erica Zweifel and Betsey Buckheit saw an advantage to preserving the city’s rural edge.
The council heard from 10 speakers, equally split on the Spring Creek project. And while two physicians discussed health concerns wind turbines are purported to cause, others, including a St. Olaf chemistry professor, refuted those findings, saying there is no scientific evidence to support such claims.
The council’s recommendations will now go to the Rice County Planning Commission, which makes a recommendation to the Rice County Board of Commissioners which has the ultimate say-so on the projects.
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