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Humboldt supervisors continue to hammer out wind tower ordinance

DAKOTA CITY – The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors continued work on a wind tower ordinance at Monday’s meeting and set the first reading for May 7.

Wind towers have been discussed at several board meetings and workshops. County Attorney Jon Beaty said he has been working on an ordinance for five months. He presented the board with a revised ordinance Monday.

“I understand this is not an easy process, but I’ve put in whatever you have asked,” he said.

The county has a wind tower ordinance from 2009, but it deals mainly with individuals who wanted to install them.

About 30 landowners showed up at a forum on wind towers held by the supervisors in December. Some favored wind farms, some opposed, and some were neutral but urged the board to draft an ordinance protecting the county’s rights.

Wind energy companies contacted Humboldt County Economic Development Director Alissa O’Connor last year and one company held a meeting with landowners. The supervisors have not been contacted.

Beaver, Grove, Lake, and Norway townships are possible sites for the wind farms primarily because of access to a transmission line, Supervisor Rick Pedersen said previously.

“We really need to get something on the books as far as an ordinance much sooner than later,” Supervisor Erik Underberg said in January. “Without an ordinance we are not doing anything in the best interest of the county.”

Humboldt County Assessor Linda Fallesen has told the board the ordinance needs to specify the county would assess the valuations of the wind farms and the revenue would come back to the county, otherwise it would go to the state. Counties with the wind farms say the revenue is wonderful, she said.

The board has obtained wind tower ordinances from several other counties and is trying to compile them into its own ordinance. The supervisors don’t want an ordinance that might put them in a corporate legal battle.

Underberg felt there were things that still needed to be in the ordinance before the board moves forward.

“This is an extremely important ordinance not only for now, but for the future,” he said.

Supervisor Carl Mattes said the board could spend another six months discussing the ordinance.

Board Chairman Bruce Reimers and Pedersen said they didn’t like the provision where the adjacent landowners can agree to waive their separation distances. Pedersen asked that that provision be dropped.

Underberg said there is no language in the ordinance dealing with transfer of the towers from one company to another. What happens when the towers are decommissioned and need to be dismantled, he asked.

That would be part of the agreement between the landowner and the company Beaty said.

“The landowners have to take the responsibility of putting these up on their land,” Pedersen said.

“With the changes that are proposed and the thought process I don’t see it flying,” Underberg said. ”I’m not comfortable with it. There’s a lot of things that are not correct.”

The ordinance can be fine-tuned at a public hearing and at the three readings, Mattes said.

“We have to make sure we get stuff in that agreement with the landowner,” he said. ”This is just an ordinance that sets the general parameters.”

The ordinance sets a $500 fee per tower for building permits. A 100 tower wind farm would bring in $50,000 in revenue. “We are not trying to reinvent the wheel we are just trying to make sure that Humboldt has a good ordinance and is able to attract a company,” Reimers said. “We don’t want to have a mess and end up saying boy we should have. I think that’s the biggest fear.”

The board asked Beaty to revise the ordinance again.