Hettinger County to decide on wind farm Friday
Credit: By Kalsey Stults on Apr 6, 2016 | The Dickinson Press | www.thedickinsonpress.com ~~
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NEW ENGLAND – The fate of the Brady Wind Energy Center’s proposed second phase in northern Hettinger County is likely to be determined Friday.
The Hettinger County Planning and Zoning Commission is set to decide on the proposal to place 72 turbines in three townships, and immediately then hand the matter over to the Hettinger County Commission, which will likely make its final decision on the proposal during a special meeting.
“It needs to be done,” said Tom Geerts, Hettinger County’s Planning and Zoning Board chairman. “We can’t expect to meet more than once in a case like this.”
The first phase, an 87-turbine farm in southern Stark County, is being deliberated by the state Public Service Commission following a record-breaking 15-hour public hearing March 30. Brady Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources, has said the Hettinger County phase of the project will likely not move forward if the Stark County phase is not approved by the PSC.
When the two phases are combined, the Brady Wind Energy Center would put 159 turbines generating about 300 megawatts of power in a rural area north of New England and stretch from west of Highway 22 to the Enchanted Highway north of Lefor. Basin Electric Power Cooperative an agreement with Brady Wind and NextEra to purchase the power.
If the Hettinger County phase of the project is approved, the PSC would then schedule a public hearing before making its decision on the project, just as it did last week with the Stark County phase.
Both phases of the project have been a subject of turmoil in rural Hettinger and Stark counties, driving wedges between landowners who are in favor of it and those who are opposed.
“It’s going to be a day where somebody is going to be not so happy and somebody will be,” said John Plaggemeyer, a Hettinger County commissioner who represents the New England area. “But it’s a day that’s got to happen.”
Some are ready to close this chapter and move forward one way or another so the community can come back together, Plaggemeyer said.
“I hope afterwards that the community, people, can forget and be friends again,” Plaggemeyer said. “Whatever happens.”
To pass on the county level, at least two of Hettinger County’s three commissioners must vote in favor the project.
Geerts said those who’ll be weighing the pros and cons of the wind farm know it is a decision that has to be made with everyone’s voices being heard. The planning and zoning meeting is scheduled to last two hours.
“We want to try to get it done and give everybody a chance to speak their mind – right, wrong or otherwise,” Geerts said. “We’ll go from there and turn it over to the commission.”
In January, the Concerned Citizens of Stark County filed an injunction against the Stark County Commission and the county’s planning and zoning board, Brady Wind and Melissa Hochmuth, project manager for NextEra Energy Resources alleging that it’s meeting to approve the Brady Wind project broke open-meeting laws. The injunction was dismissed by Southwest District Court Judge Dann Greenwood on March 24.
Geerts said he doesn’t see the same problem happening in Hettinger County.
“We’ll have to give everyone a chance to speak,” Geerts said. “I would hope that they keep it short and to the point and move on, just so everyone does have a chance to speak. I don’t want to beat the PSC’s meeting of 15 hours or whatever it was.”
If you go
What: Special meetings for Brady Wind Energy Center Phase II
When: 9 a.m. Friday
Where: Hettinger County Courthouse, 336 Pacific Ave., Mott
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