Local wind saga continues

The Northfield City Council, by a 5-2 vote (voting yes were Mayor Rossing and Councilors Buckheit, Denison, Vohs and Zweifel; voting no, Councilors Pokorney and Pownell), passed a resolution of strong support for the proposed Spring Creek Wind project. The resolution contained identical language to the resolution of support for the proposed new Carleton wind project. I’d give you the precise language if I had it (I don’t) and I wasn’t so tired (I am). I’m proud of our Council for taking a principled stand in support of the City’s Comprehensive Plan in the face of rather withering opposition from prominent local detractors.

Open microphone statements from three project opponents and two of their lawyers were heard. Speaking in support of the project were four locals (myself, St. Olaf chemistry prof Greg Muth, biostatistician Felicity Enders, and all-around good guy (and former Northfield Energy Task Force chair) George Kinney.

For the record, the two-minute statement I read at the open microphone (I had to beg for an extra 15 seconds or so to squeeze the last paragraph in…):

Bruce Anderson

501 St. Olaf Avenue Northfield City Council meeting, December 7, 2010

In Animal Farm, George Orwell’s allegorical tale about the Stalinist Soviet Union, a crucial plot development revolves, curiously, around construction of a windmill on the farm.

I by no means intend to draw parallels between the Stalinist USSR and Northfield in 2010. However, Orwell’s tale remains instructive. The most memorable moment in the story occurs when a modified slogan appears on the barn wall, after the animals’ original idealistic Seven Commandments have been cynically reduced to one: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Opponents of the proposed Spring Creek Wind project argue that it should be treated differently than other wind facilities in the area. The Planning Commission’s differential recommendations concerning the proposed Carleton and Spring Creek Wind projects reflect this, sadly. I believe this is unjust and, if approved by the Council, would be a damaging precedent.

The existing St. Olaf wind turbine, within the Urban Reserve District, is within ½ mile of about 30 private single-family homes. The nearest homes are about 1500 feet from the turbine. The Northfield City Council had nothing negative to say about this project when it was issued a CUP in 2006.

The proposed Carleton wind turbine, also within the Urban Reserve District, is within about 1100 feet of the nearest neighbor, and within the City’s Urban Expansion Boundary. The Planning Commission issued a n unqualified statement about the Carleton project’s consistency with the City’s Comprehensive Plan.

The Spring Creek Wind turbine nearest the city is more than 1700 feet outside the Urban Expansion Boundary.

I would like to think that in a community that takes pride in good government, and in the United States, where we pride ourselves on being a nation of laws, not men, that no animals are more equal than others. There is no compelling reason, in terms of public health or community values, as embodied in our local “Seven Commandments” (the Northfield Comprehensive Plan and Rice County wind ordinance), to treat the Spring Creek Wind project any differently than the other wind projects which have been embraced warmly (if not universally) by the community.

One final comment concerning the Planning Commission’s recommendation concerning inter-governmental dialogue. On the face of it, this would seem to be a reasonable request regarding future projects. However, it should not be allowed to derail any current projects. Similar requests for “dialogue” have been used by opponents around the country to stop all wind development cold. Unless and until there is a decision to change the Rice County ordinance, the proposed projects should not be held to the patently unfair standard that they should meet potential future standards which may or may not be forthcoming.

Thank you.

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