The Cherry County Planning and Zoning Board held a meeting Tuesday afternoon at Valentine High School with the main purpose to hold a public hearing on a conditional use permit for a commercial wind farm near Kilgore. After opening the meeting with routine business and the hearing to begin at 2:30, an Omaha attorney representing the Save the Sandhills group, asked that board chairman Gary Swanson recluse himself from the hearing citing a conflict of interest. Mr. Swanson has a sister and brother in law involved in the group that would like to harvest wind power in the county. After a twenty minute delay and a call to the county attorney, Mr. Swanson continued as chairman of the board and conducted the hearing, but withheld opinions and voting.
After two hours of testimony the board discussed the application for another hour with consultant Orville Stahr. Mr. Stahr and Zoning Administrator Jessica Coyle both reported that the nearly 400 page application from Bluestem Sandhills was complete and met all the current zoning regulations. The Nebraska Company plans to construct 19 turbines and produce 60 megawatts of power which will tie into an existing transmission line in the vicinity.
The board voted 4 to 3 to recommend approval of the application to the Cherry County Commissioners who will now hold a public hearing of their own. There were a couple of conditions for the permit as well. One of those conditions would concern the decommissioning at the end of life for the turbines. No date has been set for the county commissioner’s public hearing.