Terry Smith, who lives and farms land between Camp Point and Clayton, sees the irony in the ongoing wind energy debate in rural Adams County.
“The County Board has gotten the message that the people of the county don’t want zoning … they didn’t want to be told what to do with their land,” he said, referring to the organized defeat earlier this year of a comprehensive plan.
“Now you have a small group that now wants zoning because they don’t see any benefit to the wind farms being in their backyard.”
Acciona Energy North America is in the process of developing a $300 million Prairie Mills Wind Farm with Global Winds Harvest in the Clayton, Golden and Camp Point area.
However, both Clayton and Golden are considering banning the construction of wind turbines within village limits and the 1.5-mile radius surrounding the village.
Village trustees in Golden received a petition at Wednesday’s meeting with 210 residents’ signatures against building wind turbines in the area. Trustees voted to look into restricting wind development.
Under state law, a municipality may regulate wind devices within its zoning jurisdiction and within the 1.5-mile radius surrounding its zoning jurisdiction. The community is required to host at least one public hearing within 30 days of the decision.
Golden officials must determine if state law requires the village to first have zoning to enact such restrictions.
“Trustees are in the process of seeing what kind of legal action can be taken to keep the turbines outside the mile-and-a-half radius,” said Roger Flesner, village president.
“There’s some different interpretations of the state law. Some lawyers say you have to have zoning and a comprehensive plan, some of them say you don’t need zoning.”
He said it would be a long process if Golden has to take the zoning and comprehensive plan route. He said Golden would just like to have a little control around the village.
“We all like to grow, and we all like to be able to keep our community beautiful,” Flesner said.
Nearby Clayton is in the process of reviewing whether to allow wind turbines within village limits and the 1.5-mile radius. A public hearing was held in August to collect testimony from area residents.
Clayton village trustees received a petition containing 196 signatures Tuesday against the development of wind energy in the area.
Trustees also heard the results of an survey conducted at the Adams County Fair by the Adams County Farm Bureau. The bureau had 126 questionnaires returned from county residents, with 103 in support of wind energy development in the county, 13 opposed and 10 unsure.
Sam Miller, the Clayton village president, said he could see both sides of the issue. He would only vote if the trustees were tied, however.
“I’m not really sure how all the trustees would feel about it,” he said. “I think a lot of them are waiting to see what the zoning board has to say.”
The Clayton Zoning Board of Appeals is meeting at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 20 at the village offices to review the testimony and prepare a recommendation to trustees. The issue is currently tabled under a two-month moratorium. October would be the earliest a final decision is made by village trustees.
The revisions to the Adams County wind ordinance approved last month brought speculation that a wind farm would be developed soon. But County Board Chairman Mike McLaughlin said it may be next year before permit applications are submitted.
“I’m sure they’re looking on getting all their permits,” he said. “They’ve got to get quite a lot of permitting done before they can actually submit (the county application).”
McLaughlin said Acciona Energy North America has to obtain permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration, and also complete environmental impact studies. After those steps are complete, then the company would submit an application to the county.
A spokesman for Acciona said the company is actively developing the area.
“We’re excited that Adams County has an approved, finalized wind siting ordinance,” Jennifer Lopez said. “We’re awaiting results from our recent environmental studies in the project footprint.”
Lopez said communities banning wind energy within their limits shouldn’t be a concern for only the company, but county residents as well.
“This ban would hinder job creation and local economic development in the area,” she said. “Acciona is a company that takes responsible development very seriously, and we plan to do all we can to mitigate the impact locally.”
Meanwhile, Smith watches the debate. He signed an agreement three years ago to lease part of his land for wind turbines.
“A lot of friends that I’ve got to know over the years in northern Iowa have had windmills on their farms for 15 to 25 years,” Smith said. “So I spoke with them and never heard any of the negative things about wind mills, even though several of them lived right under windmills almost.”