O'NEILL - A contentious lawsuit regarding wind energy in the Sandhills is on hold following a Monday afternoon hearing.

An advocacy group known as Preserve the Sandhills recently filed a lawsuit along with Valentine landowner Charlene Reiser-McCormick against two members of the Cherry County Board of Commissioners. The lawsuit says that board members Martin DeNaeyer and Tanya Storer have conflicts of interest with regards to a potential 19-turbine wind farm near Kilgore.

The lawsuit went to a hearing before Holt County District Judge Mark Kozisek on Monday afternoon, with attorney Jason Bruno asking to prohibit the two commissioners from voting on the project because of familial connections. The Cherry County Board was scheduled to vote on a conditional use permit by developer BSH Kilgore on Tuesday afternoon in Valentine.

After over an hour of discussion, Judge Kozisek decided that more time was needed to fully make a decision on the matter, so he ruled to temporarily restrain the two commissioners from voting on the project while he goes through all of the evidence that was presented. No word was given on when a final decision will be made in the lawsuit, and the ruling leaves Tuesday afternoon's planned vote in Valentine in question.

Residents of the Sandhills have long been against the construction of wind turbines in the region, and State Senator Tom Brewer discusses the issues that could be possible with turbines.

"The majority of them (residents) are concerned mostly because of environmental issues," Brewer said. "With wind towers there's issues with groundwater, there's issues with stability, decommissioning at the end of the tower's life, there's concerns with tourism, so it's a very contentious issue."

The lawsuit will continue at a later date in Holt County District Court.