Another wind power company is testing the waters for possible wind turbines being built in Faribault County. This time it is in the Kiester and Walters areas. The Faribault County Planning Commission spent a large part of their meeting on Tuesday evening, Nov. 11, considering three conditional use permits (CUPs) from Southern Hills Wind, LLC. The three CUPs all had to do with the construction of meteorological towers (Met Towers) in the Kiester area. Two would be in Kiester Township, while one would be in Foster Township. After going through their set procedures for determining whether a request for a CUP should be granted or not – three separate times – the commission members voted to give their recommendation for approval to the County Board. The County Board is expected to consider whether to grant final approval at their next meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19. A representative of Southern Hills Wind LLC was present to answer any questions from the Planning Commission. Jason Harris said the towers will be 200 feet tall. And while the CUP says the towers could be in place for four to seven years, he thought they actually would be installed for one to three years. The towers will follow all set back rules and will have a fence around them. Members of the public who were present also had an opportunity to speak either for or against issuing the CUPs. No one spoke either way for the first tower CUP, but several people spoke against the other two. Several of those who spoke against the CUP mentioned being against wind turbine towers, and commission chairmen reminded several people the CUP only covered the met towers and not wind turbines. One of the citizens, Rhoda Obermeyer, asked what is the reason for the Met towers, and added that “we all know what is coming down the road,” suggesting it was wind turbines. Other concerns were about loss of property values, bird deaths, and crop spraying issues with wind turbines. The three CUPs concerning the Met towers were not the only conditional use permit to be considered by the commission. Darrell Friar was present with a CUP request for the Minnesota Regular Baptist Camp, Inc., in Delavan Township, on Bass Lake. Friar, the camp director, explained how they planned to make improvements and additions to the camp. “It has been around for 50 years,” he said. “We are doing some things to modernize the camp.” The commission had a long discussion on the request, with commission member and County Board commissioner Greg Young suggesting there was not enough documentation on precisely what the plans were. However, it was pointed out the plans cover several years, and whatever is done will still require a building permit and have to meet all setback and other ordinance requirements. This CUP also was approved for sending to the County Board for final approval. All four of the CUPs had quite a few conditions attached to them. The commissioners had one more item on their agenda, but after some discussion it was tabled. That item was to consider amendments to the County Zoning Ordinance Section 35, which covers a Renewable Energy Ordinance. The amendments would establish setbacks and other performance standards specifically for solar energy facilities. The Planning Commission started to hear information from county staff, but then began some discussion. It was decided by the commission members that due to the lateness of the hour, they would table the discussion. Several commission members said they need time to study it, and they also said they felt the matter should have a meeting just devoted to the solar facilities discussion.
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