County to look at changes to land use ordinance for wind turbines

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

A county resident asked the Board of Commissioners to look at current provisions in the land use ordinance that address wind turbines.

Andrew Wright is proposing to put up a less-than-100-foot wind turbine to provide electrical power on his rural property in Lakin Township. He brought along the turbine he would like to use — less than the width of his outstretched arms and less than 10 pounds with three dark, narrow blades.

Wright wonders why he needs to have a permit when other tall structures do not require one, and he wonders why he must pay what he considers to be a high fee for a small, noncommercial turbine.

“Traditional windmills don’t require a permit. Eighty-foot silos don’t require a permit. Seventy-five foot TV antennas do not require a permit,” he said.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Amy Kowalzek told the Board Tuesday, currently four wind turbines are in Morrison County, in addition to two meteorological towers for research.

Structures under 200 feet do not require a variance. Structures under 100 feet do not require lights. Wright’s turbine will be less than 100 feet.

“It seems to be contradictory to allow a windmill but not this,” said Board Member Don Meyer. “Windmills are usually about 70 feet.”

Commissioner Jeff Jelinski was concerned about any possibility of a high structure interfering with any type of radio signals, such as the Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response (ARMER) radio system throughout Minnesota. The system was established to improve 911 service.

“It certainly is an issue that needs to be touched on,” he said.

Wright also objected to the $300 permit fee.

“For personal, non-residential use this sounds excessive,” he said. “If it were $75 I would have done a double-take and that’s about it, but $300 is very high.”

“I think we need to look at the ordinance,” said Board Chair Duane Johnson.

“We can research possible changes to the ordinance,” said County Administrator Deb Gruber. “We’ll talk about all of these factors and take them into account when considering changes.”

“I’m all for protecting our resources, but my concern is the process becoming too cost-prohibitive,” said Board Member Kevin Maurer.

“It’s a green thing — the responsible thing,” Wright said. “I’d like to see more of these around the county.”

Morrison County Board Briefs

 

Other business that came before the Morrison County Commissioners included:

• Approving a requested levy by the Crookneck Lake Improvement District of $30 for 2014, a reduction from the $50 that was levied in 2013;

• Approving the renewal of the renamed local communicable disease center agreement between the county, Unity Family Healthcare and the Franciscan Sisters;

• Approving the acceptance of a Small Rural Hospital Improvement Grant Program (SHIP) grant of $614,523, to be split between Wadena, Todd, Morrison and Cass counties;

• Approving the hiring of a replacement for a 1.0 FTE public health nurse working with the elderly;

• Approving exempt gambling permits for a raffle by Horizon Health Nov. 21, at the Falls Ballroom and for bingo and a raffle by the Ramey Morrill Area Lions at St. Joseph Parish Hall Nov. 17, and

• Approving the submission of a grant application for Legacy funding to cover replacement of piers and abutments to the railroad trestle bridge at Blanchard Dam. “They are deteriorating and we would like to stay ahead of it,” said Chuck Parins of Public Works.

The next County Board meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 9 a.m. in the board room of the County Government Center.

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