TYNDALL – The latest addition to the Bon Homme County zoning ordinance is no longer blowing in the wind.
No referendum petitions were filed by Tuesday’s deadline, so the county’s new wind farm regulations went into effect Wednesday, according to County Auditor Tammy Brunken.
The measure, known as Article 17, was prompted by the construction of the Beethoven wind farm. The farm is located near Tripp and covers parts of Charles Mix, Hutchinson and Bon Homme counties.
Article 17 was further prompted by the proposed Prevailing Wind farms, which would be located at a nearby site in Charles Mix and Bon Homme counties.
Article 17 was initially approved by the Bon Homme County zoning board. The proposed law then went to the county commissioners, who held a public hearing in October. The hearing was attended by nearly 100 people who packed the Bon Homme County courtroom.
The commissioners heard about 100 minutes of testimony from 35 people, split between 25 in favor and 10 against the measure. The commissioners also received written testimony from another two dozen people, with 17 in favor of the measure and seven opposed to it.
The commissioners unanimously approved the first reading that evening. The board approved the second and final reading at its Nov. 3 regular meeting without any amendments.
Article 17 needed to run twice in the weekly newspapers used for the county’s legal publications. The ordinance was then subject to a 20-day period in which the measure could be referred to the ballot, which would temporarily block the law from going into effect.
The 20-day period ended this week, and Article 17 became law, Brunken said.
Bon Homme County didn’t have any wind energy regulations prior to adding Article 17.
The ordinance carries a number of conditions for wind farms. However, a key provision calls for setbacks of 1,000 feet near residences and 550 feet near property lines.
Prior to giving final approval, the commissioners noted a wind farm could be constructed even with passage of the ordinance, but the county would have some controls. They added the Bon Homme ordinance would follow the state’s recommendations and what other counties have used.
Without Article 17, the wind developers would only need a conditional-use permit, the commissioners added.
Opponents argued the ordinance wouldn’t go far enough. They supported a larger setback and even an outright ban on wind farms in Bon Homme County.
The commissioners discussed possibly changing the proposed 1,000 feet setback to 1,500 feet. However, they didn’t make any amendments before the final reading.
The Bon Homme County commissioners could alter the new wind energy ordinance at any time, according to Brian McGinnis with the District III Planning and Development office in Yankton.
When it comes to the two recent wind farms, McGinnis told the Press & Dakotan that Bon Homme County is in a different position than its neighbors. Charles Mix County doesn’t have zoning, while Hutchinson County hasn’t objected to the wind operations, he added.
The Beethoven operation will be grandfathered under the new Bon Homme County ordinance. Prevailing Winds and any other future wind farms will fall under the new law.
The Beethoven wind farm can generate up to 80 megawatts of energy. In contrast, the Prevailing Winds farm could generate 200 megawatts of energy, according to Prevailing Winds president Ronnie Hornstra of Avon.
If its production capacity exceeds 100 megawatts, the Prevailing Winds operation would require a siting permit from the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), according to PUC Chairman Chris Nelson. Once the state permit is approved, the operation would go to the Bon Homme County commissioners for their approval.
Prevailing Winds project manager Roland Jurgens has told the Bon Homme County Commission that the wind operation is prepared to apply for state and county approval, according to news reports.
More information on the PUC’s regulation of wind and other forms of energy can be found online at https://puc.sd.gov/.
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