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Turbine turbulence: Public hearing rescheduled due to large turnout, limited space

BISMARCK, N.D. – Morton township reached an impasse on a wind farm permit, an issue that divided the community. They sent it to Burleigh County for resolution at a hearing that has been delayed.

So many people came to Wednesday’s public hearing at the City County Building in Bismarck that the issue had to be delayed. Officials are rescheduling the hearing in a public space large enough to fit the crowd.

A sea of red shirts spanned three floors for the meeting. Two overflow rooms were opened so that hundreds of people could watch the meeting.

“It was a surprising turnout. The public obviously has a great deal of interest in the project, and we’re here to hear what the public has to say,” said Mark Randall, PNE Regulatory Affairs director.

After finally managing to find enough space in empty conference rooms, technical issues struck. The people in the overflow rooms couldn’t participate.

“The public is here, they’re interested, and we need to hear what they feel, so it’s a positive turnout. They get frustrated because we couldn’t accommodate it, but it’ll be better,” said David Andahl, chairman.

The hearing will be rescheduled at a larger venue so that everyone who’s interested will have the chance to participate.

“This project has so much interest and so much opposition, it’s really important that everyone gets to be heard on the issue and I’m glad they chose to delay it. If you can’t hear it, you can’t speak, so the delay is good,” said Julie Hornbacher, landowner.

The earliest the meeting can be held is Nov. 28. For proper public notice they have to schedule at least two weeks in advance.

After the public hearing is held, the issue will go before the Burleigh County Commission for a final decision.