Comments continue about solar projects in York County as public addresses county board

YORK – The public comment portion of the regularly scheduled county commissioner meeting has become a solar forum of sorts, as that is typically the topic brought up each and every meeting.

This week was no exception, as a number of people addressed the commissioners, as the board continues to work through proposed zoning regulations for solar projects in York County.

Dustin Marvel, representing the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), spoke this week, noting his company is currently working to develop the K Junction solar project near McCool Junction.

“We remain engaged with the community, so truthful facts can be communicated,” Marvel said.

He explained how OPPD recently contracted for a survey to be conducted in York County, saying 80% of respondents saying they believed landowners have the right to do what they want with their land (including enter contracts for solar projects) and 62% of them believe solar provides benefits for the community in which projects exist. He also expressed how the county would receive large tax revenues should the K Junction project take place. “At a time when the state legislature is trying to cut (county revenues), the name plate tax provides revenue.”

Marvel said the currently proposed restrictions being considered by the county commissioners “far exceed recommended practices. Those types of excessive setbacks really ban solar projects and limit those income streams.”

Jim Jackson, a rural resident in Hayes Township, said he lives in the middle of the proposed solar project area. “It was a beautiful morning to wake up in Hayes Township. The snow geese will be landing there soon. And it must be calving season because I saw a coyote. This was a morning you could see forever. Before you vote on these solar zoning laws, I invite you to go, on your own, to see a large solar field. It looks like hell hit with an ugly stick.”

“I see OPPD working the phones,” said Jim Klute, a rural York County resident, apparently referring to social media posts. “I haven’t seen one positive comment coming from their messages. When he says 80% of the York County people say that, they are for it, I don’t see it. They are encouraging people to sign on to a letter they wrote and then send it to you.”

Diane Johnson of Henderson said she was a recipient of a phone survey, “which was conducted by an independent agency hired by OPPD. I was appalled they asked how my commissioner was doing, how I felt about that, which I felt was none of their business.”

Willard Peterson, a resident in the rural Bradshaw area, encouraged the commissioners to visit numerous specific websites providing information about solar projects and solar energy.

“Also, at the last planning and zoning commission meeting, I was of the understanding they were going to change some of the setbacks but that didn’t happen,” Peterson said. Then he turned to the audience and said, “Some people believe I’m pro-solar and that’s BS. There are two sides to every story and we keep only hearing the one side. And I’m sick of it.”

The conversation continues as the commissioners work through the proposed zoning regulations. The matter will come before the county board again, at their next meeting.

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