BLUE EARTH – Faribault County commissioners on Thursday passed two conditional use permits for EDF Renewable Energy to build two MET towers in Barber and Pilot Grove townships.
The purpose of the towers, both about 260 feet high, is to measure wind speeds in the areas, where EDF plans to build wind farms.
The resolution was passed by the Faribault County Planning and Zoning Commission on Nov. 28, with some residents expressing their opposition to the project. It was then sent to commissioners for final approval on Thursday. Residents once again voiced their concerns.
Jacob Salisbury, land acquisition specialist, and PJ Saliterman, development director, represented EDF at the meeting.
While the decision made by the board specifically concerned the MET towers, many residents spoke about the proposed wind farms in Faribault County.
Andy Pierce, who lives in Pilot Grove Township, told commissioners that 90 percent of Pilot Grove residents are against EDF going forward with the project.
“You were voted by the people to represent them,” he said. “Use this time to be our voices. Listen to the families and residents of Pilot Grove. You can stop this project for us.”
Concerns raised by other residents include how the wind farm may affect the landscape, property values and air travel. There were also claims that the flashing red lights on the wind turbines cause insomnia.
Saliterman spoke to the concerns brought forward by residents, saying EDF has gone to great lengths to make sure the MET towers are safe. He also said the wind towers would bring $800,000 to the county annually, which would be spent at the discretion of the county.
“And it will have benefit to all you folks in the audience,” Saliterman said. “Whether you support it or not, I don’t see that as a moral dilemma.”
Commissioner Tom Loveall said the decision on whether to approve the conditional use permits should simply be based on whether they are in line with Faribault County’s tower ordinance. The decision is about following the law, he said, and therefore there is no reason not to approve the permits.
Commissioner Bill Groskreutz spoke about comments he has seen on social media that claim the board accepted bribes from EDF concerning the upcoming projects.
“I was very offended by that and I think that the rest of the board would say the same thing,” he said. “None of us have accepted a dime, a cup of coffee, a donut or anything.”
When it came time to vote on the permits, Commissioner Tom Warmka said he chose to abstain because he has hopes to be included in a wind project in the future. The rest of the commissioners voted yes.