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Wind ordinance to get a hearing Monday before planning commission

WILLMAR -- Increased interest in developing wind power as an alternative energy source has prompted the Kandiyohi County Planning Commission to develop its first ordinance to deal with where wind turbines can be located in the county.

A public hearing on the "wind energy conversion system" ordinance will be held Monday during the planning commission meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. on the second floor of the Health and Human Services Building.

Currently, the only related reference in the county zoning ordinance deals with obtaining a conditional use permit for a utility tower.

"There is no standard or specifications in the ordinance regarding wind (turbines)," said Zoning Officer Gary Geer.

The proposed ordinance "clarifies the process" for the county and the applicant, said Geer.

The ordinance lays out the requirements for small-scale wind turbines of less than 40 kilowatts, which are non-commercial, and those exceeding 40 kilowatts, which are deemed commercial units.

There have been three requests for constructing small-scale turbines in Kandiyohi County in the last couple years, and Geer said it's likely the number of requests will increase.

Conditional use permits, which require a fee, public hearing and action by the planning commission and county board, were required for the three turbines that have been erected or are about to be built.

Under the proposed ordinance, at least one of those individuals would not have had to pursue a conditional use permit but would have simply obtained a permit for construction.

If approved, non-commercial wind towers less than 200 feet in height would be a permitted use in areas zoned for agriculture.

A conditional use permit would be required in areas zoned commercial/industrial, shoreland resource management and rural residential (R-3).

They would not be allowed, even with a conditional use permit, in areas zoned as shoreland residential management (R-1) and community residence (R-2).

All commercial units would need a conditional use permit and would only be allowed in areas zoned for agriculture or commercial/industrial.

Commercial towers than exceed five mega watts would not be handled on the county level but would go before the Minnesota Environmental Quality Review Board.

Meteorological towers, which are used to measure and monitor wind availability, would be permitted in all areas except areas zoned for shoreland residential management and community residence (R-2). A conditional use permit would not be required.

Geer said the proposed ordinance is "pretty straightforward."

If the planning commission approves the ordinance, their recommendation will be forwarded to the county board for final action on Aug. 15.

The planning commission will also take action Monday to delete a current chapter in the zoning ordinance that addresses adult entertainment businesses. Their recommendation will then be forwarded to the county board.

The county board will hold a public hearing Sept. 5 on a new, stand-alone ordinance on adult entertainment. Pending county board action, the old ordinance will be deleted and the new one approved on the same day.

Geer said the current ordinance, which requires conditional use permits for adult entertainment businesses, may not hold up in court. He said other communities in Minnesota that have similar ordinances have encountered lawsuits.

The proposed ordinance, which is based on a model ordinance being adopted by other entities, has been upheld by the court systems, said Geer.

A draft of the proposed ordinance won't be available for public review until after Aug. 14.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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