Estate division sparks wind debateZUMBROTA -- The latest chapter in the fight over wind development pitted neighbor against neighbor Thursday at the Goodhue County Board meeting.
ZUMBROTA -- The latest chapter in the fight over wind development pitted neighbor against neighbor Thursday at the Goodhue County Board meeting.
A relatively routine variance request by a rural Goodhue family attempting to divide the estate of their deceased mother was ultimately approved by the board, but not before neighbors stepped to the mic to speak out in opposition.
They fear an 80-acre parcel of land the family is trying to sell WILL fall into the hands of someone who doesn't share their opposition to wind development.
"We're trying to keep wind turbines away from our homes," area landowner Thomas Gale told the board.
The ordinance in question calls for a six-month waiting period when three or more parcels of land are being created out of one parcel. The family -- the 11 children of Christine Arndt, who died in 2008 - asked the county to waive that waiting period so that the sale of the property to an interested farmer could be carried out before the spring planting season.
To get that waiver, however, the family needed a variance -- or an exception to the ordinance -- from the County Board. Variance requests require a public hearing, which prompted the series of comments in opposition on Thursday.
The resistance to their request confounded Mary Fairchilds, a daughter of Arndt who represented the estate at the meeting. She said that she and her siblings also oppose wind turbine development in the area: They turned down a contract last year offered by Goodhue Wind to participate in its large-scale wind project.
"Wind seems to be the big issue today, but I don't understand that," she said. "Our request was very simple. We want to split the land between the families."
But those opposed to the variance said there was no good reason to ignore the county's existing ordinance.
Paul Reese, a rural Goodhue farmer running for District 4 County Commissioner on an anti-wind platform, said the ordinance was on the books for a reason, and that the board should abide by it.
"I guess I don't see why the waiting period needs to be waived," he said.
Goodhue County Land-use Management Director Lisa Hanni, however, said the existing ordinance was created for reasons entirely unrelated to the Arndt family. People had been splitting parcels one day and recombining them the next for tax purposes, she said, prompting the county to pass an ordinance to curb the practice.
She said the variance process exists precisely for cases like that of the Arndt estate, where an existing law causes undue hardship.
The County Board, with the exception of Commissioner Ron Allen, ultimately agreed.
"We deal with the wind issue on a different table. We can't do that here," Commissioner Richard Samuelson said.
Allen said he voted in opposition because he saw no good reason to run counter to the existing ordinance. In doing so, he said, the county would be setting itself up for more landowners to seek an exception to the rule.
"You'd have people lining up requesting these," he said.