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Delano establishes temporary moratorium on alternative energy
May 9, 2016

BY GABE LICHT
Editor

DELANO, MN – In preparation for requests to install alternative energy systems – such as wind, solar, and geothermal – the Delano City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to place a temporary moratorium on such systems for up to a year to allow city staff to study the issue and enact an ordinance regarding green energy in the city.

“City staff is presenting this tonight not because we’re necessarily opposed to any of these three technologies or energy-production components, but we want to make sure we’ve had a discussion, and the community has had an opportunity to provide input on what rules and regulations should be in place,” City Administrator Phil Kern said.

While there have not been many requests for alternative energy within city limits, Kern said other nearby cities have had requests.

If and when those requests start coming in to Delano City Hall, the staff there wants to be prepared for how to best handle them in a way that won’t negatively impact others.

“We want to make sure we’ve thought about what the impacts could be to the neighbors and other property owners in the neighborhood, and make sure we have proper regulations in place, so we get alternative energy sources that are not disruptive to the health and safety of the rest of the community,” Kern said.

He noted that the moratorium could be in place for up to a year, but that he foresees the city being prepared to end the moratorium before that point.

“We do believe we will get through this in under a year, probably a matter of months,” Kern said.

Councilman Jason Franzen initially expressed concerns about geothermal systems being included in the moratorium.

“I think if we can get a comprehensive ordinance within a short period of time, we could just include it,” Councilwoman Betsy Stolfa said.

She asked about existing ordinances regarding alternative energy. Currently, the city only has an ordinance regulating the height of wind turbines.

“With all this technology that changes so fast, I think it’s fine to do a moratorium,” Stolfa said.

In related business, the council met for a special workshop before the council meeting to discuss the proposed solar project at 3527 Hwy. 12, just west of the city’s West Metro Business Park.

The Franklin Township Board initially opposed the proposal 2-1, but later changed its position to support the project 2-1, citing a desire for the property to not be annexed into the city as one reason for the change of position.

The Wright County Planning Commission will consider the proposal during a meeting Thursday evening. If approved, it would go before the Wright County Board Tuesday, May 17.

The city opposes the project for a number of reasons, including that the property in question is in the transition area that the city and township previously agreed would be utilized for the future growth of Delano.

If the Wright County Board approves the project, the city would consider litigation to stop it, which the council discussed in closed session with City Attorney Mark Johnson.

“The council discussed with Mark Johnson the potential to challenge any approval the county might give,” Kern said. “What they’re considering runs counter to the county’s comprehensive plan. It does not conform to plans and policies. How can you approve something that’s inconsistent with your comprehensive plan and policies?”

Kern said city officials would be sending a letter of findings of fact for the planning commission and county board to consider before making a decision.

Also during closed session, the city discussed the possibility of a contested case annexation of township property in the transition area.

In the past, the city has only annexed property when asked by a property owner.

“The passive approach only works if everyone is working together,” Kern said. “The council discussed the township’s apparent disregard for the transition area . . . If the county goes forward with this, and the township’s disregard for the transition area, the council discussed possibly proceeding with another form of annexation.”

No action was taken regarding possible litigation or annexation.

Odds and ends
In other business, the council:

• approved the purchase of the property containing the garage buildings on Second Street behind McDonald’s Studio. The city will pay owner Scott Shoutz $42,500 for the property, and Shoutz will have the garages demolished. The property will then be paved and added to the existing city parking lot.

• approved requests from Bonde Bistro and Bridge House Coffee & Café for outdoor furniture and tables to be placed on the sidewalks in front of their businesses. Both requests allow for at least 5 feet of clearance, and alcohol will not be allowed on the sidewalk, per the city’s ordinance.

• approved the purchase of a DS200 electronic vote tabulator from ES&S for $6,065.

• approved the installation of patio pavers to create an outdoor dining and break area on the flat roof of Delano City Hall and Senior Center at an estimated cost of $3,209, plus $300 from the Delano Employee Club for a small outdoor patio furniture set.

• authorized Kern to attend the International City/County Management Association Conference in September in Kansas City, MO, with funds coming from the administration and community services training and conferences budgets.

• heard from resident Ted Heikkila regarding three gravel sections in the trail along County Line Road, damage to a grass trail between Northwood Drive and Johnson Drive, and garbage near the intersection of County Line Road and Wright County Road 17. Kern told Heikkila that the gravel was due to Delano Municipal Utilities installing a water main. DMU is waiting to conclude the project until after school is out because holes will have to be dug, which will disrupt traffic. The grass trail was damaged by individuals who have been ordered to complete community service to repair it, but Kern did not know the timeline for the repairs. Heikkila was informed that his third question will need to be directed to Franklin Township, as that intersection is outside city limits.

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