County addresses issues with Nobles Wind Farm
WORTHINGTON -- Following the official swearing in ceremony for Gene Foth, appointed to fill the remainder of Norm Gallagher's term as Commissioner representing District Four, Nobles County Board members moved into an agenda dominated by the 134 wind turbines to be erected this year in four of the county's townships.
Public Works Director Stephen Schneider brought forth a request by enXco to construct a third driveway access to property in Section 13, Larkin Township. County policy is to allow just two driveways per property.
Burdell Kuhl farms the ground and already has two accesses, including one to the acreage and the second, roughly at the midpoint of the field. The third access proposed would provide easy access to the tower to be constructed on the property.
"We control how many driveways a property owner has, but we don't dictate where they go," Schneider explained to commissioners.
If a driveway access had to be moved to stay within county policy, Kuhl said it would result in extra driving and further soil compaction during harvest.
"My concern is it will be a long way to haul corn," said Kuhl.
With the wind energy industry continuing to expand in southwest Minnesota, commissioners suggested the county's policy be reevaluated regarding the number of driveway accesses landowners can have.
"These wind turbines and blades coming in are pretty big stuff," said Commissioner Diane Thier. "This is an exception, and I think it's a good one."
Ultimately, commissioners approved on a 3-2 vote a third access on the Kuhl property. Schneider said doing so will set precedence for others who want additional access. He said nine other landowners involved with the project didn't want an existing approach to be moved, but they conceded to doing so because it was county policy.
"Do you want them to come in one at a time?" Schneider asked of the potential for landowners to change their mind about their access points.
Driveway relocation and construction will be paid for by enXco; however the maintenance of access points will become a cost to the county.
Opposed to the third access for Kuhl were Commissioners David Benson and Marv Zylstra.
Commissioners unanimously approved the development agreement for enXco. Though not yet completed, the agreement will spell out the responsibilities of the company for impact to roadways used by the developers in erecting the turbines.
In the coming days, the county administrator, county attorney and public works director will go through the development agreement and make necessary changes. Appointing them to make changes eliminates the need for a special meeting in the next two weeks, as enXco hopes to begin project construction on May 17.
Schneider planned a meeting for 7 p.m. tonight at the Nobles County Public Works facility with township officials from Larkin, Summit Lake, Olney and Dewald townships to further discuss the agreement.
In other action, the board:
- Approved a conditional use permit for Mortenson Construction and enXco, both of Minneapolis, to construct a lay down yard, including construction offices and a concrete mix plant, in the south half of the southeast quarter of Section 23, Summit Lake Township. Three conditions were placed on the project -- that the operation of the concrete mix plant be limited to daylight hours, that the company be responsible for maintaining dust control and that the good neighbor policy be enforced.
- Suggested writing a letter to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) regarding service road access for Worthington Ag Parts. The discussion stemmed from Dennis Bucholz's appearance before the Nobles County Planning Commission last week, during which he cited concerns about the loss of space and the ability for semi trucks to turn around on his property.
- Approved an assessing agreement with the city of Worthington for 2011, 2012 and 2013, at a rate of $104,700 per year.
- Approved the second quarter appropriation for RSVP of $7,239.
- Approved the appointments of Ken Buysse, Earl DeWilde and Norris Peterson to the Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water board of commissioners.
- Received the annual Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council report from agency director Neal Steffl.
- Amended the county's recycling contract with Schaap Sanitation to reflect a name change in the business. The contract will now state that it is working with Waste Connections, doing business as Schaap Sanitation Minnesota Corp.
- Approved a joint powers agreement with the Southwest/West Central Services Cooperative for group employee benefits and other financial and risk management services.
- Appointed Foth to seats on various boards and commissions previously held by Norm Gallagher.
- Appointed Duane Schmitz to the Nobles County Planning Advisory Committee.
- Approved a resolution supporting the Frosty Riders to continue maintenance of the county's snowmobile trails. The trails are managed and funded by Frosty Riders, with the aid of grant dollars.