Residents’ Opposition Leads Minnetrista to Slap Moratorium on Solar Projects

The planning commission in Minnetrista was gung ho on the solar garden installation with 4,100 nine-foot high photovoltaic panels proposed for the rural western Twin Cities suburb. Just weeks ago, the panel unanimously recommended the city council pass the project with the blessing of the city attorney on land zoned Ag Preserve.

The proposed use is in harmony with the purpose and intent of the City’s zoning
ordinances because solar energy systems are a re-emerging technology that
provides an alternative to traditional sources of power which will continue to
increase in its share of energy production;

The proposed use is consistent with the City’s comprehensive plan because the
development of solar energy systems is a function of the Metropolitan Land Planning Act and Minnesota Statutes contained within the Minnetrista Comprehensive Plan;

Under the city’s 2015 solar ordinance, there was no requirement to inform nearby property owners of the solar farm about to go up around them. For example, John and Mary Ryan were never officially told about it despite living next to the proposed project, according to a letter on file with the city.

We were never notified by the City of this development and were disappointed when we were informed by a neighbor of this only last week.

But as word inevitably leaked out, a funny thing happened on the way to the way to what appeared to be a slam dunk for the project.

Residents concerned over the project’s potential impact on the rural character of their community took action. Several dozen property owners signed and submitted a document opposing the project at city hall.

Our concerns are regarding the “aesthetics, scenic view, character and integrity of the neighborhood” if built in this particular location. It, in no way, reflects a lack of commitment to the environment or sustainable energy.

It didn’t hurt that the increasingly controversial project came before elected officials just two weeks before the November 3 election. Both candidates for mayor, current Mayor Lisa Whalen and City Councilor Shannon Bruce, joined in a unanimous vote to put a year moratorium on solar projects in order to review and potentially revise the 2015 ordinance.

On her blog, Bruce credited the outcome to residents who got involved, many likely for the first time.

I have no doubt, absent resident involvement and their willingness to express their opposition, this proposal would likely have passed last night.