Wind-farm developer questioned, challenged at forum
About 60 people gathered Thursday at Rochester Public Library to hear a lively discussion about Goodhue Wind's proposed 78-megawatt wind farm in Goodhue County. The public was invited to quiz a five-member panel put together by the Post-Bulletin for details on the project.
People took full advantage of the opportunity.
The crowd peppered Goodhue Wind senior wind developer Chuck Burdick with questions throughout most of the 90-minute session. A few even stuck around to challenge him on certain issues after the meeting ended.
One of the biggest concerns discussed is what they see as the secrecy of the proposal, which was first introduced in 2008. Burdick expressed frustration with that sentiment afterward, while previously noting to the crowd that open public meetings have been ongoing for the past two years. One of the first meetings took place at a restaurant in downtown Goodhue, he said.
However, it remained a relatively low-profile issue until the past year as Steve Groth, another panel member, and Goodhue Wind Truth pressed the issue with local government bodies.
"It wasn't like anyone was trying to hide anything," Goodhue County commissioner Richard Samuelson said. "It's (in) my district. If I'd have known people were going to be this upset with (the proposal), I'd have made sure it was on the front page."
Fellow commissioner and panel member Dan Rechtzigel agreed with Samuelson's assessment but said that "better answers could have been provided early on" from Goodhue Wind.
Rechtzigel expects to serve on a three-person Planning Advisory Commission subcommittee that will look at updating the county's wind-farm ordinance, though the county board will provide final direction on the initiative at Tuesday morning's meeting.
Lisa Hanni, Goodhue County's land-use director, was also on the panel. And while the library's auditorium was filled with vocal wind-farm critics, a number of interested Rochester residents also filled the room. Their concerns, like those of Goodhue Wind Truth, ranged from setback distance to health and safety to emergency medical service via helicopters, and many others.
Mary Hartman of Rochester pointed the panel to the latest "National Geographic" that introduced new health issues associated with electrical interference in the brain during sleep, which could have a correlation with wind turbines.
While Burdick offered responses to nearly every issue that was raised while the P-B's Managing Editor Jay Furst moderated the informal dialogue, there was one issue that he admitted could not be altered if the project is approved to begin construction this fall. Goodhue County planning/zoning administrator Mike Wozniak, a panel member, said hundreds of enormous turbines sprouting up around the county would "change the character of the community."