Lincoln County’s legal advisers will recommend a permitting restart for a set of controversial wind energy test towers on Tuesday night.
Dakota Power Community Wind lost its bid for permits on five meteorological towers just over a month ago in the face of a well-organized group of residents opposed to the company’s hoped-for wind farm in south Lincoln County.
The company wants to use the towers to gauge the wind-generating capacity of an area around Hudson, Beresford and Canton. The data gathered by the towers would used to sell investors on a 200-turbine wind farm that would generate 500 megawatts of electricity.
The company appealed the zoning board’s denials to the full county commission, which is set to hear the permitting arguments anew at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Canton.
The appeal might be premature, according to Lincoln County Deputy State’s Attorney Ross Wright. He and planning director Paul Aslesen now believe the company applied for the wrong permits.
Because the 190-foot met towers would only be operational for about three years, Wright said, the company should have applied for a temporary use permit. The permits up for appeal are permanent conditional use.
“As we talked about it, we realized that they fall more under that temporary use,” said Wright.
Wright will offer county commissioners the option Tuesday of kicking the permitting process back to the planning and zoning board before arguments begin on the company’s appeal.
A full appeal hearing would set up a face-off between the opponents, with their concerns about the health, environmental and property value impact of commercial wind farms, and the company, with its assertion that the towers themselves are the first step in a project that is anything but certain.
Company representatives didn’t attempt to knock down arguments against the wind farm, company representative Rob Johnson said last month, because the farm itself was not on the agenda.
Even so, the meeting at which the temporary tower permits were denied last month stretched well into the evening on Feb. 17.
Should the commission vote to send the issue back to the planning board, some of the same questions would be on the table, Wright said. The county zoning ordinance’s section on temporary permits lists nine considerations for permits, including one requiring that any project have no “unreasonable adverse effect on nearby properties or jeopardize public health, safety, and general welfare.”
The opposition will likely remain the same, said Winnie Peterson, who heads We-Care South Dakota, a nonprofit group working to stop the project,
“We-Care isn’t worried about what kind of permit the met towers seek,” Peterson said. “the intent and the purpose of these towers is the same, whether the permit is temporary or permanent.”
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