Commission 'clarifies' zoning motionThe Stark County Commission reversed a decision Tuesday they voted on in April which rezones land for a coal mine and plant.
The Stark County Commission reversed a decision Tuesday they voted on in April which rezones land for a coal mine and plant.
After an executive session, commissioners reopened the special meeting to the public with a “clarification” of a motion made in April regarding Great North Power Development.
The company plans to use 7,780 acres near South Heart for a coal mine and a $1.5 billion coal gasification plant. The project will create 1,100 temporary jobs and 350 permanent jobs.
The land needs to be zoned industrial rather than agricultural for the project to operate.
Commissioners specified at the April meeting the zoning amendment would not take place until GNPD met several conditions ranging from permits to water replacement.
However, Commissioner Jay Elkin, who made the motion at the April meeting, said his intention was for the zoning amendment to take place immediately.
“I did not at that point understand that the motion was for immediate rezoning, I understood the motion was subject to the providing by GNPD to this board the state permits as well as a lot of other things before we did rezone,” said Tom Henning, Stark County state’s attorney. “Therefore I did not prepare the statutorily required findings of fact, nor did I prepare a resolution to be filed with the county recorder rezoning the property in question.”
That will all now be done, Henning said.
Neighbors United, Dakota Resource Council and other concerned residents appealed the commission’s decision to rezone in May.
Mary Hodell, a member of Neighbors United, finds the change suspicious and confusing.
“That’s pretty much saying that you can drive your car now if you get your license next month,” Hodell said.
After the meeting, Henning said the issue of when the rezone would happen came up because of the appeal.
“You could say it was a stepping stone,” Henning said.
The change will allow the organizations involved in the appeal to deal with it sooner, he added.
“It was as much about clarifying it for the purpose of the lawsuit that DRC intends to file, as far as when it’s timely to bring it, as much as anything else,” Henning said. “Otherwise they’re saying, ‘Why are you suing us, we haven’t rezoned yet.’”
Derrick Braaten, attorney for those who filed the appeal, declined comment, saying he didn’t have enough information.
“As far as the appeal process, I don’t see how what they did speeds it up, but without more information I don’t really know how it’s going to affect the appeal,” Braaten said.
GNPD will still have to fulfill the conditions set by the commission before they begin operating, Henning said.
“Should they not be compliant with those conditions, it would give basis for someone to bring a complaint to the zoning director and have the zoning director address GNPD,” Henning said.