Both sides of Wind debate heat up on county commission

The Marion County Commission met on Monday, Nov. 4, where they heard from the Planning, Zoning and Environmental Health Director Sharon Omstead, as well as Russ Ewy, a county consultant for Planning and Zoning. In addition to a packed room full of citizens both for and against the wind farm, there were employees from Expedition Wind, LLC.

Ewy explained that the commission needed to decide if they wanted electric transmission lines to be regulated or not in regard to wind turbines, and if it should fall under Article 1 or Article 19 of the zoning regulations.

“Electric transmission lines is an explicitly stated land use that references Article 19-105.5. It references utilities, power plants, water treatment plants, things of that nature that are a physical presence that may or may not have impact on adjoining property, so we as a county chose to regulate those through a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) process, ” Ewy said. “This text amendment is fairly straight forward. If it is felt that electrical transmission lines is something that the county has a need to regulate to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public, then we can leave that reference in Article 19 in the regulations and modify Article 1 to eliminate the exemption. However, if Article 19’s reference was in error, then we will want to eliminate the reference in Article 19 of electrical transmission line being required to have a CUP as well as the text clarification to Amendment 1.”

Count Commissioner Diane Novak asked that the commissioners be able to hold off on voting.

“I am concerned about due process and the protest period. It had been said that a meeting would be held on the 12th to allow for due process and the protest period, and now all of a sudden we are here on the 4th and have abruptly taken away that process,” Novak said. “Do you not believe that for the county commission to make a decision at this point in time before the people have the right to protest petition, would that not then be a hypothetical vote? Because we are assuming that there will not be a protest petition. Why would we do that?”

Ewy answered that there are two different issues and that the commissioners voting on the text amendments did not impact the protest petitions.

The commissioners voted two to one to accept the text amendment. Novak voted against.

The meeting then moved on to cover the Expedition Wind CUP No. 7 since the amendment was accepted.

“The actual CUP covers just under 2,000 feet. The development plan that will be appended if this is passed to the previously proposed development plan is approximately a mile,” said Jesse Hopkins-Hoel, director of development for Expedition.

“I go back to my original question. How do you justify us not having the due process?” Novak asked.

“Well, first and foremost, I don’t set the agenda for the Marion County Board of Commissioners,” Ewy said.

“I understand that. But could you not say that maybe this is inappropriate and we should not be doing this?” Novak said.

“Inappropriate is an opinion and maybe shouldn’t have merit here. Is there a legal obligation to wait the 14 days prior to having it scheduled in front of the governing body? I don’t see any proof of that, no. However, I already stated my opinion when asked if I had ever seen this before and said no,” Ewy said. “This does not remove any rights of the protestors. They will still have until this Thursday at 5 p.m. to file a valid protest against this petition with the county clerk’s office.”

“I sat here and listened to you mince your words. It’s very sad. And I am very disappointed,” Novak said.

The commissioners voted on the CUP No. 7, and it passed two to one, with Novak voting against it.

In other business, the commission:

•discussed the need to replace laptops for the county clerk and the three current commissioners as well as purchase additional ones for the two new commissioners. The original laptops currently being used were purchased in 2013 and are outdated. It was discussed getting the cheapest option available, but the commissioners voted unanimously for the higher end one, since it was the best value and not much more than the lowest priced one. They voted for six new laptops for a total of $4,932.

•approved the bid from Cooperative Grain and Supply in Hillsboro for transport fuel. The bid total was $18,763.50.

•heard that the financing for the transfer station project would be too large for Marion County banks that are only headquartered in Marion County but would be able to be financed by larger banks in Marion County with branches outside the county, as well as banks not in the county. The county clerk reminded the commissioners that they still had to follow a timeline and pass a resolution before accepting a bid, so while they could hear bids at the meeting later that day, they could not accept them.

•heard transfer station bids. The first bid of $1,761,019.70 came from Nelson-Fowlers, LLC and the second bid of $2,320,551.00 came from Walter Murray of Manhattan.

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