BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN Following a 4-3 vote by the Wright County Planning Commission during a June 16 meeting to direct staff to prepare findings of fact for approval of a solar project at 3527 Highway 12 west of Delano, the Delano City Council and Franklin Township Board met Tuesday and passed resolutions recommending the planning commission to deny the conditional use permit for the project.
“(City Planner) Alan Brixius and I have met with (City Attorney) Mark Johnson to begin the process of considering our legal options should they continue to go through with this on (Thursday) the 30th and approve it,” City Administrator Phil Kern told the council and the board. “In the meantime, Mark recommended to us, and I think we’ve asked Franklin Township to consider adopting a resolution from their perspective and we adopt a resolution from our perspective stating the reasons why we would ask the planning commission to vote against it.”
Franklin Board Chair DeWayne Bauman said city and township representatives likely won’t be able to speak at Thursday’s meeting, and added that the commission’s decision likely won’t change.
“As far as they’re concerned, it’s done because it was forwarded to Wright County Assistant Attorney Greg Kryzer to forward to staff at planning and zoning to draw up a conditional use permit with the changes that were requested as far as setbacks, foliage, screening, fencing, the way the utilities will be run, and so on,” Bauman said.
Brixius said the resolutions would clearly document the positions of the city and the township for the planning commissioners to consider before a final vote.
Both resolutions identify that the proposed solar site lies in a transitional area between industrial-zoned land in the city and industrial-zoned land in the township.
“The site is guided transitional area, which is defined by the Wright County plan as an urban expansion area for the city of Delano,” both resolutions state. “This area is reserved for the phased extension of urban streets and utilities within the next 20 years. The size and location of these transitional areas were cooperatively agreed to between the city of Delano and Franklin Township.”
Both the city and township want to maintain that cooperative agreement, according to the resolutions.
Delano’s resolution states the city “has been reliant on the Wright County Comprehensive Plan, Land Use Plan, and stated goals and policies, and has invested in bringing utilities to the northwest industrial park with capacity in the utility system to serve this subject site. This city effort is consistent with the Wright County Comprehensive Plan. This capacity is wasted with the solar farm.”
Delano’s resolution continues that the conditional use permit is harmful to the city and the county because it introduces a land use that interferes with the logical extension of utilities into an area planned for urban growth within 20 years of the Wright County plan.
Franklin Township’s resolution addressed a lack of a landscaping plan; a lack of construction plans for the solar panels, utility poles, or utility interconnection; and a decommissioning plan that it called “vague and incomplete and does not address all the elements of the solar garden.”
“Franklin Township believes that due to the lack of this detailed information, the county cannot be sure as to what they are approving related to measurable site alterations and construction features,” the resolution continued.
Similar concerns were raised in Delano’s resolution regarding details on grading, drainage, storm-water management, landscaping, construction details related to the solar arrays, utility poles, utility interconnections, and decommissioning plan.
Delano’s resolution states that a solar farm would be inconsistent with stated goals and policies of the Wright County Comprehensive Plan related to transitional area land use designation; efficient and economical use of public funds and investment; strengthening and enhancing the county’s economy through industry, attracting jobs, enhancing the tax base, and bringing new capital into the region; encouraging cities and townships to cooperate on development plans for transitional areas; and marketing new businesses to the Highway 12 corridor.
Delano officials have also challenged the county’s approval of an interim conditional use permit because the county has not established interim use permits within its ordinance and placement of a sunset date on a conditional use permit is contrary to the 1990 Minnesota attorney general’s opinion, which was noted in Delano’s resolution.
In conclusion, Delano’s resolution pointed to four provisions of the Wright County conditional use criteria, which city representatives believe are contrary to the application for the solar project.