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Wind farm proposal public input meeting delayed due to attendance

In continuing coverage, Tonight marked the next step in deciding whether Morton Township could be the site of a new wind farm.

At a Burleigh County Planning and Zoning meeting, public input was expected to dominate the conversation.

The City-County building was packed around 4:30 when we arrived for the meeting. People were lined up, all the way up the stairs from the meeting room, out the door onto the sidewalk.

They were waiting to voice their concerns about the wind farm proposed just south of Bismarck.

It was a sea of red shirts that filled the meeting room.

Jesse Kalberer lives near the project site.

He says, “The Commissioners and Board Members are led to believe that it’s 50/50, half the people want it, half the people don’t. It’s not even close.”

In fact, the number of protestors was so high, the overflow seating didn’t suffice.

The reason the Burleigh County Commission took over this decision is due to a conflict of interest with Morton Township Leaders.

Just before the meeting, one Commissioner presented a letter to the board, saying he may also have a conflict of interest because he is a participating land owner in the project. The board ultimately decided to recuse Commissioner Jim Small from the decision.

Before the project can move forward, it will require the approval of 30 permits, one for each proposed turbine.

Director of Buisness Development for PNE Courtney Timmons adds, “It covers 15,000 acres, and we have 100 percent land control for the project.”

But Timmons was the only person who made it to the podium tonight.

Commissioner Brian Bitner explains, “The biggest problem is we didn’t have enough space in the room for the crowd that appeared for the public hearing.”

Not to mention there were technical issues, which ultimately led Commissioners to delay the meeting.

Jayce Doan owns land in Morton Township.

He told KX News, “Delay doesn’t really matter for us. You know, I’m glad they took the public into consideration on this. This is a public hearing, so delay doesn’t matter.”

Burleigh County Commissioners say they’ve never seen a public input meeting with such a crowd in that particular room.

Like I mentioned earlier, it was ultimately technology that brought it to a halt, when the monitors stopped broadcasting for those watching from conference rooms.

The earliest the meeting can be rescheduled is in two weeks. The Burleigh County State’s Attorney says the public has to be notified at least two weeks in advance. No date was set tonight.