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Letter: Stark County commissioners charmed by out-of-state money

The Stark County Planning and Zoning meeting Wednesday was an eye opener.

Nothing changed. It was the same request Great Northern Project Development had made back in September. A request that was unanimously denied only two months ago.

This time, GNPD spared no expense flying in every vice president and CEO to sweet talk the Stark County zoning board into approving this zoning change. And why wouldn’t they? After all, they received $10 million from the state to spend on trying to get this South Heart coal project shoved through before the end of the year. If it fails, they only have to repay $2 million.

I don’t have a VP or a CEO to stand up in a fancy suit and charm the county commissioners. Instead, I stand alongside all of my lifelong neighbors, generations of farmers and ranchers who have chosen to stay in southwest North Dakota and raise their families, many of whom have been lifelong residents of Stark County. Unlike this Texas coal company, we aren’t asking for a handout from the state. We aren’t making any promises to the County Commission. We are just standing together, asking that our elected officials stand up for the residents of Stark County — people like myself and my neighbors with no one else looking out for us.

The county pays a “county planner” to make a recommendation to the board if they should approve a project or not.

Mr. Steve Josephson makes his unbiased decision based on the county zoning laws and the county’s comprehensive plan. Not only did he recommend they deny this project — twice — but he asked that they put conditions on the approval, to hold GNPD accountable for what they are promising.

Not only did the board dismiss Mr. Josephson’s recommendation, Commissioner Jay Elkin went so far as to argue the point with him.

Why are they paying this guy to tell them what is right if they are going to argue with him when they don’t like what he says?

If our elected officials are more concerned with pleasing some out-of-state coal company, who is looking out for us?