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Public vote not an option for Davison County wind farm

Davison County residents will not have the opportunity to refer the denial of a $40 million wind farm to a public vote.

Davison County State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins said South Dakota Supreme Court case Bechen v. Moody County determined decisions made by county boards of adjustment are not covered under the public’s right to referendum.

In a 4-1 vote on Feb. 9, the Davison County Commission voted during a board of adjustment session to block the construction of a nine- to 11-turbine wind farm to be constructed in Beulah Township after hearing several concerns from township residents.

During a discussion on the project, Commissioner John Claggett briefly mentioned he’d prefer to see the project go to a public vote. After making the comment on a public vote, Claggett’s suggestion was not included in any further discussion.

Miskimins said the public has a right to referendum in state, county and municipal legislative action, but the right does not extend to boards of adjustment.

A representative of Juhl Energy, who proposed building the wind farm on the land of Brad and Peggy Greenway, said after the Feb. 9 vote he did not expect the public would have the opportunity to vote on the project.

Although the project received heavy opposition from neighbors to the Greenways, the board of adjustment meeting did feature some in support of the project, including Davison County residents Mark Puetz and Doug Greenway and Mitchell Technical Institute wind turbine technology student Brandon Moore.

Proponents spoke of the tax benefits to the county, township and Mount Vernon and Mitchell school districts, the opportunity to support renewable energy and the potential new jobs available both during and after construction. But opponents argued the impact on the landscape, property values and quality of life made the proposed Beulah Township location a poor site for the project.