County Attorney Voids Approval of Solar Farm Projects

Cascade County Attorney John Parker says there weren't enough zoning board of adjustment members present

By Associated Press

GREAT FALLS — The Cascade County Attorney’s Office has voided approval by the Cascade County Zoning Board of Adjustment of two solar farm projects south of Great Falls because not enough members were present for the votes.

County Attorney John Parker said bylaws for the Cascade County Zoning Board of Adjustment require that four members of the board be present for a quorum. Because of a vacancy on the five-member board and a board member who recused himself, only three members voted on applications by Cypress Creek Renewables.

The Fox Solar project is planned less than a mile from Great Falls. The Portage Solar project is also planned nearby. The two 30-acre projects would each generate 3 megawatts of energy, which Cypress plans to sell to NorthWestern Energy.

Residents argued the projects would reduce property values.

The board got written reports from the company and much public comment before taking action, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

Cypress Creek Renewables spokeswoman Amy Berg Pickett said the company is still committed to the project and is exploring its options.

Board member Tim Wilkinson, who recused himself from voting on the solar farm projects, was a leading opponent of the Fox Solar project.

Wilkinson said he was surprised at the county attorney’s ruling because the Zoning Board of Adjustment has been operating with a three-person quorum for the past five or six years.

The board took substantive action on many occasions with only three members attending, he said.

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