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Wacouta sinks Wildwood Solar

Residents listened while Wacouta Town Board members discussed the future of the Wildwood Lane Solar Garden. Kit Murray / Rivertowns Multimedia

WACOUTA — After much scrutiny, the Wildwood Community Solar Garden was denied a conditional-use permit by the Wacouta Town Board.

On Monday, May 15, the Wacouta Township Planning Commission recommended the Town Board deny a permit for a solar garden on Wildwood Lane between Highway 61, southeast of Red Wing. The board agreed in a 3-0 vote.

The project would entail installing 22,410 solar panels within a 43.1-acre wetland in Wacouta Township.

After over a year of the project being in the works, Wacouta Township residents were concerned with the consequences of the proposed solar garden. Howard Stenerson and Minnesota-based solar developer, GreenMark, argued that the work done at the site would provide a list of benefits, including improving the overall quality of the area as well as providing tax benefits to the township and the county.

Goodhue County Board first approved the request for a conditional-use permit from Stenerson on May 3, 2016. The township, however, also has jurisdiction.

With five conclusions total, the Town Board decided that the Wildwood Lane solar garden would not fit the intent of the township zoning ordinances. Rather than being an agriculture-related project, as stated by GreenMark, Town Board members determined it was not primarily intended to serve that community.

"The gist of it was, it didn't intend to put agriculture community first. The other one was the compatibility," Chairman John Schueller, said.

Residents stated during a variety of public hearings at the county and township levels that the solar garden would compromise the existing wildlife within the wetland area.

From here, Stenerson and GreenMark can look into alternative options by requesting a change in zoning. As far as Wacouta Town Board is concerned, last night's meeting was the end of discussion.

"We followed their recommendation. I don't know what their next step will be. As far as I'm concerned, the application has been turned down. There are some options for them, I would suppose," Schueller said.

GreenMark and Stenerson did not state at the meeting whether the Wildwood Solar Garden team will request any more changes.

Kit Murray

Kit Murray joined Red Wing Republican Eagle in Aug. 2016, covering government, transportation and public safety. She is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in photojournalism and philosophy. 

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