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Wind energy projects and commercial animal feeding operations remain a big topic of conversation for area county commissions and boards.
And they’re not expected to go away anytime soon.
A “mixed bag” of zoning issues was discussed this week during the Planning and Development District III regular meeting held at the Highland Conference Center in Mitchell. District III Community Development Specialist Brian McGinnis said counties are primarily in the crosshairs because of those two topics.
“Every county is dealing with this, and they’re watching it closely,” he said.
For example, Charles Mix County is not a zoned county, but is working to create a wind tower ordinance for future wind turbine projects. That would call for setbacks from residences of 3.5 times the turbine’s total height, rather than the state standard of 1.1 times the height and a decibel regulation of 43 decibels or lower.
That won’t have an impact on the Prevailing Wind Park project proposed in Bon Homme, Charles Mix and Hutchinson counties. That is currently under consideration by the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.
McGinnis said negotiating never hurts, because wind energy companies generally “fear zoning,” he said.
Along those lines, some companies are preparing to repower wind tower systems, even after as few as 10 years, because the technology has made large advancements, such as bigger blades and upgraded motor systems.
“I don’t think people thought we’d see repowering at 10 years, but they will start coming now (for repowering) pretty soon,” he said.
McGinnis said he receives calls every day about commercial animal feeding operations and said “there’s not a magic answer.”
“I’m not picking on hogs, but that’s the biggest controversy right now,” he added.
Barns under 1,000 animal units, or 2,500 swine weighing 55 pounds or more, are not subject to South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resource Water Pollution Control permits. That is the primary way that DENR regulates commercial swine barns.
Those operations still need to get county permits, which is why county governments get the focus in the matters. A number of counties are discussing changing their zoning ordinances, but there hasn’t been a consensus of where to go with those rules. McGinnis said counties are bouncing between 800 and 1,000 animal units, and back and forth, for conditional use permit standards.
McGinnis also said counties need to start making use of technology options that will help them make reasoned decisions, such as odor footprint modeling, which would show the impact of odor for nearby residences.
On a municipal level, McGinnis noted that small towns are dealing with the issue of large sheds that also have living quarters, or “shouses,” a term created by pushing together the words shed and house. Those buildings can include tall sidewalls, which can make for a difficult living arrangements for neighbors.
“People now believe that having a humongous garage is a right and they have the right to block out the sun and the sky from their neighbors,” he said. “It’s their God-given right, even though it’s not in anyone’s zoning ordinance or the Ten Commandments.”
In Corsica, for example, the city’s planning commission enacted a six-month moratorium on residential construction in June to work on finishing updating its zoning ordinance, in part because of the issue.
One of the solutions, McGinnis said, is to regulate aesthetics and specify that residences have characteristics that are traditionally found on houses, such as shingles and lap siding.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do but they want their big buildings,” McGinnis said of those seeking to build the large structures. “They don’t want their neighbors to have their big buildings, though.”
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