Approximately 50 people filled the Antelope County Commissioners' room, Tuesday, Nov. 13, for a public hearing on a conditional use permit for construction of a commercial wind energy system, Thunderhead Wind Energy, LLC. The up to 300 megawatt wind farm, if built, will be partially located in southwest Antelope County.
Up to 137 turbines are expected to be constructed in Antelope County, with approximately another 34 in neighboring Wheeler County.
The electric collection system from turbine to turbine is anticipated to be primarily underground with a single overhead transmission line connecting the farm’s collector substation to a future Nebraska Public Power District substation in Holt County.
Although the CUP was approved by the Antelope Planning Commission Oct. 23, one of the final steps in the process is approval by the county commissioners.
Tuesday's hearing screeched to a stop before it was opened, when newly-elected commissioner Dean Smith, questioned deficiency in the public notice notifying landowners and residents of the hearing.
Verbiage in the public notice stated, "All written comments must be received by the county clerk prior to close of business (4:30 p.m.) Monday, Nov. 12, in order for the comments to be accepted into the official public record for the application." Written comments were to be mailed to the clerk's courthouse address in Neligh.
The problem, Smith pointed out, was the courthouse was officially closed Monday, in observance of Veterans Day and because Monday was a federal holiday, the United States Postal Service provided no mail delivery.
Smith said he discussed the matter with Antelope County Clerk Lisa Payne, who contacted Antelope County Attorney Joe Abler earlier Tuesday morning. Abler, who arrived at the meeting prior to Smith's discussion said, "What I was told this morning when I was contacted is that (Payne) received a letter from one of the landowners this morning with a statement they tried to deliver yesterday, but the courthouse was closed."
Payne did work at the courthouse Monday, even though it was a designated holiday, and received communication regarding the hearing. She instructed those calling to place written comments in the courthouse's exterior drop box.
Abler said the decision to proceed or reschedule, was a decision to be made by the commissioners.
Zoning Administrator Liz Doerr said if anyone present wanted to submit a written statement during the hearing, the document would be accepted.
Of the legality on proceeding with the hearing Tuesday, Abler said, "It's kind of a gray area."
Commissioner Charlie Henery said he wasn't sure how he felt about it. "I don't know what the tactic is to delay it, or if there is a tactic involved, so I don't know how I feel about it. If we delay it to December, most likely the outcome is probably going to be the same."
Josh Framel, project developer, said Invenergy, owner of Thunderhead Wind Energy, preferred the hearing be allowed to proceed.
On a motion by Commissioner Jerry Schwager, seconded by Henery, the public hearing for the CUP was delayed to Tuesday, Dec. 4. The time, originally set for 8 a.m., was changed to 10 a.m.
The hearing will be held in the Antelope County Commissioners' room in the courthouse annex. Written comments must be received by 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4.
In other matters during Tuesday's meeting;
Doerr said a few terms on the Board of Adjustments and Zoning Board will need to be filled at the end of the year due to retirements and resignations and asked commissioners to be thinking of candidate suggestions.
Road Boss Casey Dittrich said in his report, the county had 10 identified tree issues. Notification will be sent to the 10 property owners.
An application to place an electric line under 524 Avenue by John Beckman was approved, provided Beckman provide signage for the line placement.
Dittrich discussed the current road use agreement with Invenergy for the current Upstream Wind Energy project and said some changes need to be made before approving Thunderhead.