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February 24, 2015 09:55 PM

Permit For Sioux Falls Solar Farm Rejected

Sioux Falls, SD

Thirty people who live near the proposed solar farm stand up against a project they say will only harm their land.

"Haven't heard from one proponent of this project from Sioux Falls or Minnehaha County. If there are any out there, have them come up," home owner Dan Hein said.

Representatives from Cherry Creek Solar, leading the project for Geronimo Energy, stand up for a project they say fits right in with the area's sustainability efforts.

"We have heard the concerns of the public. We've done what we can to address those with a balance of what we can do on those key issues," project manager Jordan Burmeister said.

Petitioners handed in an appeal against the project for a number of reasons, including a lack of a contract between Geronimo Energy and a utility wanting to use the power.

"There isn't an interconnection agreement. This is a hope and a wish that these people are presenting to you," attorney Mike Schaffer said.

Company representatives say this will be one of the biggest projects they've put together, another red flag for home owners.

"They have no experience building these facilities. Ask them if they've ever built a one-acre facility anywhere on land usage, and the answer is no. Why should we trust them to do this for the first time on such a massive project?" home owner Randy Shaull said.

Several council members and county commissioners hoped to see this permit approved.

"Sometimes we let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It's been said before that taxing something is a good way to destroy it. I think deferring it also a good way to stop it," Commissioner Jeff Barth said.

In the end, there aren't enough answers to push the permit through.

"The close proximity to the City of Sioux Falls might not be a problem for us now, but that's going to be a problem for future councils down the road, and it seems to me that's a hurdle I can't get over," council member Rick Kiley said.

On a 6 to 2 decision from the city and a split decision from the commission, the permit is rejected. Geronimo Energy can come back in six months to re-apply for a conditional use permit, which the council made clear Tuesday night can be enough time to answer all their questions.

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