Last July and August, the Campbell County Commission considered the issue of a Campbell County wind farm ordinance, and the lack thereof. Now on its return from hibernation, the Commission wishes to cram down that ordinance on very short notice to the public. Some six months after the Commission first considered the project, I received a written draft of the proposed ordinance for the first time on January 16th of 2019. This short notice is exacerbated by the Commission — it declared only one public hearing on the matter. There have been no public hearings, no listening meetings, no cracker barrels, no public county tours by the county-hired ordinance experts. Nothing. The only scheduled and approved public hearing will be on February 7th.
Why the rush to get wind farms legalized when there was over six months to study it, to seek public input, and to exchange ideas about the wind farm ordinance? I had recommended to the commission in August of last year that several formal and informal public meetings should be held. I encouraged the experts hired by the county to come to the county and hold listening meetings. None of this happened.
I think back to a recent land rights and property rights problem in northeastern South Dakota. That question was how to manage public access to private non-meandered waters. This was a consequential issue for many county governments, landowners and farmers. These waters were not regulated by the state. Controversy was prevalent concerning access to these so-called public waters. There were questions regarding property rights, hunting and fishing rights, and the effect on the local economy. The state legislature realized these were significant economic and property issues for several counties.
Similar to that property rights problem, the proposed wind farm ordinance will have a significant effect on the property rights and on the economy of Campbell County. These issues should not be crammed down on landowners and farmers on just a few days’ notice and with only one public hearing. The state legislature held two full day hearings for a similar enactment. The legislators then took out time to tour the specific effected areas. This was followed by public debate and further hearings in various committee meetings. The process took some time. The lawmakers were careful. There were numerous opportunities for the public to provide its input. That is not at all how the proposed ordinance is being managed by Campbell County in this matter.
I am now obliged on behalf of my good clients to stand up, salute, and quickly review 100 pages or so of the proposed ordinance and its legal language — all on short notice and at the commission’s convenience. What about the convenience of Campbell County’s landowners and farmers?
David Ganje of Ganje Law Offices practices in the area of natural resources, environmental and commercial law.