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Stark Co. places moratorium on wind farm applications: Permits will not be considered until 2018

The Stark County Commission voted unanimously to stop accepting applications for wind farm conditional-use permits for a period of two years at a regular meeting Tuesday at Stark County Courthouse.

The move comes after the commission approved the 87-turbine Brady Wind Energy Center by Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources for southern Stark County during a special meeting Dec. 22.

Commissioner Jay Elkin brought up the idea, saying that there were a multitude of wind energy companies besides NextEra that had expressed interest in placing wind farms in Stark County. He explained that the county needed to simply observe what happens with Brady Wind during its construction and startup.

“Since this has been approved, I think we need to step back,” he said.

With the wind farm anticipated to reach completion in December 2016, Elkin proposed the moratorium to extend one year following that date to Dec. 31, 2017.

Elkin said one reason for the holdoff is to see how or if NextEra works with landowners and county citizens with lingering issues with the wind farm that need to be addressed.

“I think we need to better understand what’s going on or whether or not they fulfill their obligations to the citizens of the county as well as the county itself,” he said.

Commissioner Russ Hoff agreed with Elkin, saying the moratorium would be a good way for the county to test its wind farm ordinance and see if any adjustments needed to be made.

The commissioners agreed that the moratorium would be revisited at its end, where the commission could decide whether or not to extend it.

Commissioner Duane “Bucky” Wolf said such a move would also let the county see what kind of impact a wind farm will have in the county.

“It gives you a lot to look at down the road,” he said.

Planning and Zoning Board appointments visited

The commission voted on appointments to the Stark County Planning and Zoning Board.

County auditor Kay Haag announced that Kurt Froelich, Duane Grundhauser and Sue Larsen had each agreed to serve another four-year term, while Larry Messer was stepping down. The commission approved the reappointments of the former three.

Elkin said he knew Belfield resident Byron Richard was willing to fill one of the open position for that locale, which the commission approved.

The commission is waiting for a Richardton resident to claim interest in filling an open spot to represent the city on the board.