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August 23, 2019

8/1/2019 4:09:00 PM
Construction of solar project along CR-22 becomes an issue for Chisago City Council

Construction of a one megawatt solar energy garden underway along County Road 22 at 275th St. put solar energy back in front of the Chisago City Council July 23. Council member Marie Rivers moved to add the solar energy discussion to the council’s otherwise brief agenda.

Rivers’ action came after residents of 275th Street approached the city administrator and council members in days prior to the meeting voicing concerns about the new solar array project in light of the city’s current moratorium on solar energy generating sites.

The project now under construction on the Loren Peterson property was administratively permitted under an existing city ordinance, which does not require one megawatt solar gardens to come before the city council. The city attorney determined solar developers had adequately met all ordinance requirements for this particular project before the city enacted its current moratorium.
Solar developers reportedly had made a similar request for a second one-megawatt garden on the Peterson property but the city attorney  found the project had failed to meet ordinance requirements prior to the moratorium.

Administrator John Pechman said eight residents from three households on 275th St. attended a July 23 meeting. One of them had asked to address the council during the public comment portion of the meeting but after Council member Rivers moved to add the solar energy discussion to the night’s agenda, Mayor Bob Gustafson agreed to allow the residents to speak during  discussion at the end of the meeting.

Residents expressed concerns about:
- screening the project
- potential emission of low frequency waves
- noise caused by humming sounds from the equipment that converts the energy to three-phase power, and
- non-compliance of a city ordinance that states reflective solar panels are not allowed.    
The city told the residents that the solar panels on this project will be the same as those used on the five megawatt solar garden on Pioneer Road, which are not the mirrored panels prohibited by ordinance.
Residents were also told that screening of this project will include a row of pine trees facing County Road 22, and arborvitae trees along portions of the perimeter, again similar to the Pioneer Road solar array. The perimeter of the project itself is 800 feet from the property line.
The discussion ended with Mayor Gustafson commenting that concerns like these are the reason that the city chose to enact a moratorium on solar energy projects to give city officials time for reviewing and revising its solar energy ordinances.

In other business, the council:
- passed a resolution approving outdoor consumption of alcohol at the Uncommon Loon Brewery at 10825 Lake Blvd. The Uncommon Loon will be allowed to serve alcohol in a 24x40-foot outdoor patio area located at the rear of the building.
- authorized a letter supporting Chisago County’s request to apply for a BUILD Discretionary Grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for improvement of US Highway 8 between Interstate 35 and Karmel Avenue. The council authorized the mayor and city administrator to review and sign any future documents relative to the proposed Highway 8 improvement project.
- approved spending $11,000 of the city’s share of charitable gambling proceeds for three things: the annual Ki Chi Saga Days fireworks, the annual holiday lighting display in the city park, and the city’s annual volunteer appreciation event.

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