Lincoln County’s zoning board gave the go-ahead on Monday to five meteorological towers designed to test wind power capacity.
Board members in Canton voted 4-3 on Monday in favor of temporary permits for Dakota Power Community Wind, a group proposing what would be the largest industrial wind farm in the state.
The towers will collect data for about three years, and the data would be used to sell investors on the 1,000 megawatt project around Beresford, Hudson and Canton.
The controversial project has spawned a vocal opposition group, We-Care South Dakota, and concerns over property values, noise, wildlife and quality of life were behind the denial of full conditional use permits for the same test towers in February.
Instead of appealing the zoning board’s decision, the company re-applied for temporary permits on the advice of the Lincoln County State’s Attorney’s Office.
The Monday vote will allow the met towers to operate for up to four years. One permit was approved in 2014, prior to the formation of We-Care.
“The permits are one of the first steps in the development process and our locally-driven project still has a lot of work to complete to bring this project to fruition,” said Nick Sershen of Val-Add Service Corporation, a backer of the wind project.
If completed, Sershen said, the project could mean millions of dollars in economic development for Lincoln County, boost school budgets and pay landowners thousands of dollars every year.
Opponents of the project say they are disappointed in the vote but also see a long battle. They fear an industrial wind farm would mean permanently altering the rural residential character of the area in the footprint and cut into property values.
“We see this as a hurdle, we don’t see it as the end,” said Winnie Peterson of We-Care. “We don’t look at it as a win or a loss. We look at it as a permit.”
Zoning board members Craig Nelson, Chad Anderson, Ron Anderson and Ron Albers voted for the towers. Dan King, who also is a county commissioner, joined Monty Derousseau and Darrel Sogn in voting against them.
King has heard concerns about safety, road wear and wildlife during months of debate over wind turbines, but the property value issue was the deciding factor for him. The zoning board has a mandate to protect property values, he said.
“I believe that folks within sight of the towers would have negative consequences if they attempt to sell,” King said.
The discussion surely will continue through appeals at the county commission level, King said. The opponents have five days to appeal.
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