About 100 people attended and 50 people spoke during a four-hour meeting Wednesday night at Valentine High School about a proposed wind farm in Cherry County.
The public hearing preceded a county board vote on a conditional use permit, scheduled for 4 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Cherry County Courthouse.
The wind farm would bring 30 windmills, each 300 feet tall, to thousands of acres in the Sandhills. While Bluestem Sandhills LLC hopes to bring wind energy to the vast rural county, opponents have said the windmills will be left behind to rust — ultimately ruining, not saving, the environment.
The issue has sparked discussion about topics such as bird migration patterns and the fragile soil of the Sandhills. Meanwhile, a number of public hearings have been postponed because the public was not properly notified.
Despite differing opinions, the mood during Wednesday’s meeting was calm and collected, said Carolyn Semin, who heads a group fighting the proposed wind farm.
“All in all, I was pleased we had the turnout on such a cold night that we did,” Semin said. She also commended those who spoke “on both sides. You always need to hear both sides.”
Still, Semin said, “no one’s mind was going to be changed.”
While the public was encouraged to sign up and speak at the hearing, only the commissioners could ask questions. Semin said she was disappointed that some commissioners didn’t ask tougher questions of some speakers, including a Bluestem official and a retired University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor.
“They were really quiet,” she said.
Cherry County Clerk Tom Elliott said the public hearing wasn’t meant to be a question-and-answer session.
“It’s been an ongoing process for quite a few weeks,” he said.
He added that people on both sides of the issue have submitted written comments, which commissioners researched ahead of time, leaving few questions to be asked.
While Bluestem officials and others came to be heard, Elliott said, most speakers were Cherry County landowners.