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May 22, 2018

4/27/2018 2:21:00 PM
County adopts solar zoning revisions, gets roads update

Chisago County Board met April 18 for a regular meeting.  Commissioner Lora Walker was present via skype.

The meeting began with County Engineer Joe Triplett giving an update on County road projects.  Triplett told the board road construction is just getting rolling. Triplett said the County Road 9 project in Nessel Township is in the design stage and will be let out for bids May 9.  Triplett also said the County Road 5 and 74 project is in the design process. Triplett said the round-a-bout project at the Hazelden and Highway 8 intersection is in pre-design stages.

Triplett told the board the County Road 24 project (Old Towne Road) will be overseen by Chisago City.

The board then heard from Director of Environmental Services Kurt Schneider.  Schneider told the board there were nine new home permits applied for since the last meeting.  
Schneider reminded the board in June of 2013, the Lake Improvement District recommended connecting North Center and North Lindstrom lakes and feasibility studies were completed.  The LID has named a subcommittee to re-look at that channel connection.

Schneider presented the planning commission recommendation for a CUP for Wild Mountain Winery. The winery is looking to add a microbrewery and a wedding venue. The board unanimously passed the recommendation.

The board also approved a permit for Brittany Kari for a home occupation beauty salon.  Kari resides in Shafer Township.

Schneider shifted to solar array zoning amendments.  Schneider presented two ordinance options for the board’s consideration.  The first option would reduce the current 20 acre threshold to 10 acres for an administrative permit.  The option would also include public notification and a community meeting.  The option also requires a 1/4 mile notification of neighboring properties. The project would require 74 percent opacity for screening instead of specific tree requirements.

Schneider then explained the second option which is not an administrative approach.  ALL arrays would fall under Interim Use Permit review.

Schneider noted that both of the options were addressing the public’s concerns.

Commissioner Mike Robinson asked Schneider if option one required County Board members to be present at the meetings. Schneider replied only the developer and staff would be involved and meetings could take place anywhere.  

Commissioner Walker noted that option one was not unanimously approved by the planning commission.  Schneider added that option one included a rigid, detailed list of conditions that could translate to larger projects. Schneider told the board option two removes the flexibility of varying from standards.

The board then opened the floor for citizens forum.  

Tom Rongitsch told the board he had concerns about array project saturation. “I have lived here 41 years and have seen a drastic decline of wildlife” he said.  “We live in a gem and it is turning into an industrial neighborhood” he added.

Angela Permaloff told the board both options exclude the public from the process.  Permaloff told the board solar arrays are disrespectful to surrounding property owners.  “We are destroying the rural atmosphere we all enjoy” Permaloff said.  

Sarah Spencer told the board her grandparents have lived here for decades and own a century farm.  Spencer said she was a little upset that people are telling her family what they can or can’t do.  “You say solar farms are ruining the atmosphere, you came here to our farmland, put up houses and ruined our landscape.  You should have no say,” Spencer said.

Commissioner Ben Montzka noted that option two included performance standards that had to be conformed to.  

Robinson asked if the county would need to add personnel to accommodate processing interim use permits for  potential future solar projects.  Schneider said he was confident his staff could accommodate any new projects.  Schneider added in his opinion it appears solar projects are close to maturing, meaning energy providers may have reached their goals and future projects should tail off.

Commissioner George McMahon told the board he would prefer the board be involved in either option and would prefer to hold future meetings in the County Board room.  
County Commissioner Rick Greene then made a motion to approve option one with the change of notification be increased to 1/2 mile.

Montzka said his feeling was to lean towards option two because he thought option one was less judicial.  

Robinson added the options are quite a bit alike and stressed the importance of screening for projects.

“I believe the landowners have been here for years and paying taxes, they have rights too” Robinson said.

Walker said she preferred option two because of the flexibility and allowable adjustments that could be made.

McMahon asked Schneider what differs in guidelines for notification. Schneider said option one requires a neighborhood meeting, that would include a zoning administrator, township officials and neighbors.  Option two would be carried out by county staff as opposed to a developer.
With that, the board passed option one with Montzka voting against.

McMahon told the room of citizens “thank you” and the Board realizes some will be happy and some not.  McMahon noted it was a process and the process worked.

Donations accepted by the Board
Trinity Church, Lindstrom,  gave $775 for Project Lifesaver Program needs for the sheriff’s department

An anonymous donor gave $10,000 for AED units for the sheriff cars.


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