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Bon Homme zoning board approves wind farm

TYNDALL, S.D. – The Bon Homme County Planning and Zoning Commission voted Monday to approve a plan to build a wind farm near Tripp.

A public hearing, held Monday in the Bon Homme County Courthouse, was to discuss a proposed amendment that would require all windmills to be constructed at least 2 miles from a residence, business or public building.

This amendment was rejected in a 3-1 vote, upholding the original ordinance, which requires windmills to be constructed about 500 feet away.

Mary Jo Bauder, Bob Rothschadl and Chairman Mike Soukup voted to approve the ordinance as is. Doug Brandt voted against approval. Tina Talsma was absent.

“My concern is the dependence on the federal government to make these things work in the long term,” said Brandt, the sole objector on the board. “We call it green energy; I’ve got big concerns about that as well, and I have concerns about the setbacks everyone has put forward here.”

This vote does not give final approval to the construction. Rather, it will serve as a recommendation to the county commissioners who have final say, according to Zoning Administrator Eric Elsberry. The date for that vote has not yet been scheduled.

Ron Hornstra, president of Prevailing Winds LLC, the Dell Rapids-based company seeking to build the farm in Bon Homme, Charles Mix and Hutchinson counties, said this has been a long and difficult struggle.

“We didn’t know what was coming, but that’s probably a good thing, because if we did, we probably wouldn’t have kept going,” Hornstra said. “We aren’t a bunch of people in here trying to make a fast buck.”

The room was nearly filled with 51 attendees, many from Avon, the town in Bon Homme County that would be closest to the proposed farm. Prior to the hearing, 20 letters were sent in supporting the proposed 2-mile amendment, according to the meeting minutes.

About 15 individuals voiced opinions in favor and in opposition to the rejected 2-mile amendment. Most were in favor and raised arguments against wind farms, including decreased property values, noise pollution, and safety and health concerns for both people and livestock.

“Do you think those people care about what happens in Avon with relationships between neighbors? No, they don’t,” said Avon-resident Ed Van Gerpen, a former South Dakota state representative. “They only care about money, and I think that’s pretty sad.”

Van Gerpen said the amendment was needed to promote “harmony among neighbors.”

Greg Whiteley, of Avon, agreed with Van Gerpen. Whitely said the federal government generally tries to avoid untouched nature when building wind farms to protect green space.

“Farms. That’s our green space, and I think it needs to be protected,” Whiteley said. “I have friends on the other side of the issue, and they don’t want a 500-foot monument in their backyard or 1,000 feet from their backyard.”

Not all were opposed, however. Frank Kloucek, a former South Dakota state senator and representative, recalled a vote that would require all hog farms to be kept 2 miles from residences, which was also rejected.

“I would take a wind farm over a hog farm any day,” Kloucek said. “The two-mile amendment will kill wind power in Bon Homme county as far as I’m concerned.”

Prevailing Winds LLC, is owned by 27 individuals in the South Dakota towns of Avon, Tripp, Springfield, Tyndall, Scotland, Delmont, Lesterville, Menno, Olivet, Sioux Falls, Tabor, Wagner, Dell Rapids and Yankton, along with three South Dakota companies, but none of these were named.

The zoning board will meet again on Sept. 21.