A pre-trial hearing concerning a civil lawsuit against Saline County and seven wind farm entities was held Jan. 15 at the Gage County courthouse in Beatrice.
The wind entities include Milligan One Wind LLC, EDF Renewables, Aksamit Energy Development, Aksamit Resources Management, Golden Rock Wind LLC, US Development LLC and York Nebraska Wind Partners LLC.
The case was moved from Saline County to Gage County because a staff member of the Saline County judge was involved in the proceedings, creating a conflict of interest.
The lawsuit, the second for the county in 2019, was brought forward Oct. 29 by seven residents of Saline County: Alan and Debbie Brunkow, Gary Veprovsky, Dennis and Deborah Pallas and Chuck and Rebecca McKay.
They allege public record documents were not provided as requested, conditional use permits were not filed in a timely manner and zoning regulations for the county are being violated by the wind farm companies.
An estimated 40-50 people, including two Saline County commissioners and deputy attorney Steve Residorff, were present for the Jan. 15 hearing that was heard by Judge Rick Schreiner.
The defending parties, as represented by attorneys Lindsay Lundholm of Milligan One LLC and Ryan Kunhart on behalf of Aksamit Resources Management, presented three exhibits to the court to have the case dismissed, a motion that was submitted Jan. 8.
The first exhibit was an affidavit from Saline County Planning and Zoning administrator Lyle Weber, who reviewed the initial CUP issued to Aksamit Resource Managment in September 2016.
The second and third exhibits presented were meeting minutes from the Board of Commissioners, one from 2016 approving the CUP and another from 2018 when the board approved a three-year extension.
Lundholm said these provide validity of the permit and her reasoning for a motion of dismissal.
Attorneys representing the plaintiffs, Joseph Wilkins and Stephen Mossman, challenged the existence of the extended CUP.
Wilkins said he was unable to procure the exact CUP being referred to in court and that by filing for a state of discovery, they would have an opportunity to present exhibits of their own.
He also said the CUPs are invalid because they have to be submitted by landowners, which the wind farm entities are not.
“They’re not agents (of the property) and they can’t hold permits,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins said since the wind farm was not completed in the three years it was supposed to be, the CUP is void.
Judge Schreiner reserved his ruling and briefings are scheduled for Jan. 31.
“I just want to make the right decision,” Schreiner said.