The Burleigh County Commission breezed through revisions to its wind farm policy Wednesday, approving five major wording changes to its permit policy that officials said would make it more flexible.
Commissioner Mark Armstrong voted no on all five changes, which were approved in separate 4-1 votes.
They would move certain requirements from the special use permit phase to the building permit phase:
n Identifying existing and proposed access points on public-right-of-ways of a wind project.
n Listing roadway names, and type of width surfacing of a road on public right-of-way. Locations of public roads within 500 feet of turbine must still be listed in the special use permit applications.
n Listing wind turbine fixtures, accessory buildings, meteorological towers, electrical infrastructure or transmission lines within 500 feet of a turbine.
Parks, boat ramps, swimming beaches and recreation within 3,000 feet of a turbine must be named in the special use permit application.
n Giving locations and dimensions of proposed utility easements, easements for storm water management facilities, culverts and retention/detention areas.
n Listing boundaries of filed lease easements or options to wind energy facilities.
NextEra Energy, the company that is expected to be the first applicant to use the county’s first wind energy policy, made the requests for change. Commissioners reviewed all 31 items in the policy and allowed a handful to move to the building permit stage.
Although the county approved a wind policy in April, NextEra contested several data items required in the special use permit process. The company said the information collected was same as the company uses for building permit applications. NextEra found the data requests both too expensive and repetitive.
Newly named Commission Chairman Brian Bitner proposed more simple wording on several items kept in the special use permit stage. The changes would give more general locations of where a turbine will be near participating homes, non-participating homes and roads.
Wording changes now let an applicant to collect more information from public records.
One of NextEra’s projects was proposed to cross into Crofte Township near Baldwin. It falls into Burleigh County jurisdiction.
In late December, the commission also adjusted how applicants pay wind energy fees. It now allows only a $1,000 application fee to be paid up front and the balance of the fees to be paid during the building permit phase.
The formula still requires an applicant be charged one-tenth of 1 percent of the entire cost of the turbines.
Armstrong said he opposed the wind policy changes because they didn’t involve public comment other than from NextEra officials, unlike earlier county commission and planning commission meetings.
“We already acted on them. I believe the process tonight was completely circumvented,” he said.
Armstrong said NextEra has never applied for its permit in the eight months since the county approved the wind policy.
Bitner said the changes made the county’s wind policy more flexible.
“I think because it’s more business-friendly. We had it just too rigid. The cost of doing business in Burleigh County for that type of company was too high,” he said.
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