Lincoln County voters head to polls over wind turbine placement

Published: Jul. 17, 2017 at 5:07 PM CDT
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Lincoln County will hold a special election Tuesday to let the voters determine how close wind turbines can be built by homes.

A group of farmers in the Dakota Power Community Wind project collected petition signatures to put the issue to a public vote, saying the county commission's proposal to have a half-mile set back would end their plans for a 150 tower farm on the southern edge of Lincoln County.

While the wind farm project is proposed near Beresford, 70 percent of Lincoln County voters live in Sioux Falls, Harrisburg and Tea.

"The southern part of the county is our rural part of the county and yes they do have less voters and yes they probably are more affected by actual vote," Lincoln County Auditor Marleen Sweeter said.

The Lincoln County auditor says it is nearly impossible to know how many people will come out and vote on Tuesday.

She says this is the first special election the county has held in decades.

"That has really been the nerve wracking part for me to know how many ballots to have in place," Sweeter said.

People from both sides of the issue are working to get more voters involved.

"I spent three days walking the streets in Sioux Falls," Dakota Power Community Wind Board Member Brian Minish said. 'We're finding people are really strongly supporting renewable energy, and they strongly support farmers...and they're also concerned about taxes and tax revenues."

"We're working to inform our community about what it means," Chairman Winnie Peterson said. "Our primary role in our local government is to protect the health, safety and welfare of our local community."

Area farmers and energy groups say the ordinance is a ban on all wind farms; they're encouraging people to vote no Tuesday.

We Care South Dakota is encouraging Lincoln County residents to vote yes, saying they believe the commission passed safe setbacks for area homeowners.

All regular polling places in Lincoln County will be open from 7:00am to 7:00p.m. Tuesday.

A vote yes will change the county ordinance to a half mile setback while a vote no will leave the ordinance as is, which is a setback three times the height of the turbine.

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