Friday, June 14, 2024

Scotts Bluff County Board rejects conditional use allow for Situla Energy photo voltaic mission


After practically three hours of dialogue and debate, a few of it fairly spirited and heated, the Scotts Bluff County Commissioners voted 3 to 2 Monday night time to reject the conditional use allow for the utility-grade photo voltaic mission.

As proposed, Dunlieh Energy’s Situla Solar Energy mission would have put in greater than 600,000 photo voltaic panels producing as much as 400 megawatts of energy on about 1,500 hectares of Preston Trust land, positioned within the south-west within the province.

County Planning and Zoning Director Bill Mabin laid out the small print of the allow and a few extra situations that had been added because it was permitted 7-1 by the County Planning Commission, in addition to some language modifications instructed by a advisor. . That contains the submission of a Road Use Agreement, permitted energy buy settlement, emergency response and a decommissioning plans previous to the issuance of the constructing allow initially of the mission. Also a part of the revised language is the requirement for a surety bond in an quantity adequate to cowl the projected prices of decommissioning, the quantity of which might be evaluated each 5 years.

When the ground was opened for public remark, Ken Bowman of Gering was amongst those that spoke in favor of the mission, saying criticism of the method made it appear to be the county was combating growth. “We put these folks via every kind of hoops that they agreed to however you retain including to it. That… you possibly can’t play ball like that. For me, this can be a mission that has a monetary impression for county with much less cash when it is quick, and we’d like cash. You maintain speaking about it going broke when it is over… That’s actually their situation,” he mentioned Bowman.

Speaking in opposition to the mission was Dave Mecklem, who has a homestead close by and land adjoining to the rental property. Mecklem mentioned he has already been affected by the mission with elevated visitors on close by county roads, and is considering the extra impression. “I wish to understand how my land worth, which I’ve labored for all my life, might be affected by this mission,” mentioned Mechlem. “How many tens of 1000’s of {dollars} can I lose as a result of I’m so near this mission?”

Among board members, Commissioner Charlie Knapper has been essentially the most vocal in questioning the mission. When Knapper requested Dunlieh VP of Business Development Scott Ickes about different initiatives the corporate touted of their shows, Ickes defined that the Situla mission was the primary to succeed in the permit-seeking stage.

Attorney Kyle Long (proper, standing) and Commissioner Charlie Knapper (left) debate applicable subjects for consideration of the Situla CUP software, with Jack Preston and County Clerk Kelly Sides (heart) listening (Miller/KNEB /RRN)

Knapper questions concerning the background of the corporate’s executives and their expertise with giant firms resembling Tesla and Samsung, monetary assist and whether or not they are going to be round if the price of the mission will increase, and the way concerned the county should in particulars resembling compliance with hearth codes. drew sharp objections and rebukes from Dunlieh’s authorized counsel, legal professional Kyle Long. The long-argued query earlier than the commissioners is whether or not the proposal is in line with the county’s zoning laws as they stand now, and arguments concerning the firm and different technical features are usually not what the Board ought to take into account.

Another level of rivalry, raised by Commissioner Russ Reisig, is whether or not the corporate has the power to use for a conditional use allow beneath state legislation, or whether or not the landowner should make the appliance. Long argued that Situla Energy’s submission was right, and famous that the Preston Trust identify had beforehand been added previous to Planning Commission approval. Reisig, nonetheless, expressed doubts that a part of the appliance course of adopted state legislation.

Knapper expressed considerations that regardless of some exterior assistance on the problem, the county’s zoning laws relating to renewable vitality are a long time previous and have left the county unprepared to decide. . He feels that the board actually wants a whole lot of time and experience, “and (to) give you the necessary and vital laws and situations to place this allow in. There’s no manner we will do it, it is fully in our heads. We should deny this allow to guard the county from what we do not know.”

After the general public listening to closed, Commissioner Mark Harris mentioned for him, the choice might be a balancing act. His feedback then instructed he was extra inclined to contemplate the CUP desk at an upcoming board assembly.

“What are the advantages in comparison with what is going to hurt our province? And in my view I do not assume we’ll be there tonight, so far as all of those instruments being written by way of what now we have,” Harris mentioned.

Before opening the ground for motions to approve, deny or entertain the allow software, Chair Ken Meyer mentioned it isn’t the board’s job to attempt to rewrite current laws on zoning within the county via the method of utilizing situations. “I do not agree that we must always have a look at this (or) do one thing completely different for the subsequent mission that is available in. And sure, it is in all probability one of many largest (initiatives) within the state of Nebraska. We ought to in all probability let’s pat ourselves on the again that we allowed this to occur, if it was allowed to occur, however I do not know,” Meyer mentioned. “Stay within the lane, take into consideration the 2 issues we have to care for as a county board. Does it meet the zoning necessities, that are all met (situations of approval)? The second is, will it hurt the neighboring properties?”

Knapper then supplied a movement to disclaim the appliance, which was seconded by Commissioner Michael Blue. Reisig joined them in voting in opposition to the approval of the CUP.

It was not instantly clear on the finish of the night time if a brand new CUP could be made or sought, if a authorized problem might be mounted, or if the corporate that wishes to construct the mission would search to take action elsewhere within the Panhandle. .

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