The Pennington County Commission gave final approval Tuesday to an ordinance regulating wind turbines.
The ordinance was approved unanimously after months of work by the planning department, the planning commission and the county commissioners.
It sets out rules for three types of wind turbines: small wind energy systems less than 100 feet tall; large wind energy systems that are taller; and wind farms, or collections of multiple large wind energy systems.
Small turbines can be built in all county zoning districts with a conditional use permit, provided they meet criteria such as having a setback of at least 1.1 times their height from structures like power lines and public roads.
Large turbines have further restrictions, including being forbidden in residential districts, within 3 miles of any airports or helipads, and within 5 miles of Rapid City Regional Airport and Ellsworth Air Force Base.
Wind farms are largely restricted to general agricultural districts, and developers have to submit bonds to pay for the cost of eventually decommissioning the farm.
Commissioners made final changes last week to the ordinance to satisfy concerns raised by Rapid City Regional Airport.
Prior to this ordinance, Pennington County had no specific restrictions on wind turbines.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the commission gave Central States Fair the go-ahead to solicit bids for new ventilator fans for the fairgrounds events center. Fair general manager Ron Jeffries told the commission that the events center, built earlier this decade, has a problem with dampness that may cause long-term damage to the building.
Five ventilator fans, which Jeffries said would solve the problem and lower the fair’s utility costs, will cost around $10,000 each. Central States Fair has $100,000 in its capital improvement budget for the year.
Commissioners are also considering a change to their public comment period at regular meetings. Members of the public currently are invited to discuss anything not on the agenda near the start of each meeting without restriction. Under a proposed change, commissioners would limit how long any particular member of the public could speak and would ask would-be speakers to fill out a card in advance stating their intended topic.
Commission Chairman Ken Davis said he doesn’t want to make rules for public comments but thinks it is needed to rein in the length of commission meetings – which regularly run for more than five hours.
“We’re just faced with too much time spent in conversation with people that just want to drag the meetings out,” Davis said. “I’ve never wanted to do this, I’ve never thought it was the right thing to do, but if it continues, we’re going to have to do it.”
This is a system similar to what the Rapid City Council uses. Pennington County also used this system during heated debates last year over its septic ordinance.
Implementing such a policy will be discussed at the commission’s Oct. 18 meeting.
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