The Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved third reading but delayed for one week adoption of the county’s new wind ordinance.
Attending the meeting were wind company representatives, including Adam Sokolski of Iberdrola Renewables, and Al Blum and Bob Schacherer of NorthStar Wind. Also present was Steve Hallgren, planner with Northwest Iowa Planning & Development Commission, who helped author the ordinance, and county landowners Willis Klaus and Kenneth and Judy DeVore.
Klaus, who lives north of Estherville, said he had received an offer to have four to six turbines placed on his property.
“At first blush I was very interested,” Klaus said. However, he said after speaking with several landowners leasing land for turbines and to an attorney specializing in wind energy, he had changed his mind.
Willis said wind turbines would lower farmland values for a number of reasons:
n Damaged tiles.
n Turbines would discourage crop dusters from spraying, according to Klaus.
n Noise pollution.
n Economics of wind energy. “In a couple years, windmills will not work without government subsidies,” Willis said.
n Setbacks. Willis said he wanted turbines kept at least a half mile from his property line.
Willis said he had shown an attorney a proposed contract for siting turbines on his land. The attorney, said Willis, said, “That’s the most one-sided contract I’ve ever seen.”
Willis his next question to Blum, NorthStar Wind chair.
“How about a personal guarantee from Mr. Blum and every member of the board of directors,” said Klaus. “I recommend everybody on this board vote against this ordinance.”
Kenneth DeVore, landowner in the southwestern corner of Estherville Township, asked supervisor Al Madden about a statement he had made at the last supervisors meeting two weeks ago that a 1,250-foot property line setback would limit the county to six turbines.
Madden said that estimate was hypothetical. Madden then defended the ordinance, saying he did not want the county to lose increased county property values from turbines.
He also addressed a concern about crop dusters, saying there were other spraying methods farmers could use.
When Anderson asked about decommissioning plans, Blum said those were addressed in the ordinance.
Sokolski also addressed the issue of crop dusters.
“Our wind farm employees see it get done all the time,” Sokolski said, noting that it was an issue that needs to be coordinated between the wind farm owner and landowners.
He said Iberdrola tries to bring neighboring landowners into the discussion as part of a good neighbor policy.
And as for setbacks from other turbines or dwellings, Schumacher said Emmet County’s at 1,250 feet was more than that of other counties.
“I don’t think 1,250 feet is nearly far enough,” Anderson said, offering concern for future housing development.
Steve Hallgren, planner with Northwest Iowa Planning & Development Commission, said if a turbine were in place first and someone wanted to build on an acreage right under it, that would not be precluded.
“That’s their prerogative,” Hallgren said, comparing that to someone building a resident within the proscribed distance of a hog confinement.
When Anderson asked Madden’s statement about someone with a 40-acre tract being shut out from being able to lease land for a turbine, both Schacherer and Hallgren said that would be difficult.
Schacherer said five rotor diameters is the general recommended distance between turbines for maximum efficiency, a distance Madden said “is not hard and fast” according to GE Wind representatives with whom he had spoken.
Anderson said turbines in rural areas should be grouped together and he also objected to what he saw as a double standard between siting differences between residential and ag areas.
Commercial turbines must be set back 110 percent of their total height from adjacent property lines and 1,250 feet from an occupied dwelling.
As for height, Hallgren said turbines within 1,250 feet of residentially zoned districts must be 250 feet or less – that would apply to areas around Tuttle, Ingham and High lakes.
Anderson objected to no height restrictions in rural areas.
“Why the difference?” he asked. He also suggested that each individual turbine site could be examined to determine setbacks and other requirements.
County attorney Doug Hansen said Anderson’s suggestion could be addressed in the ordinance. However, added Hansen, “I don’t think you’d get any development in Emmet County.”
Hansen said the whole process of having a zoning ordinance was to have some control over private developers.
Schumacher said Emmet County’s wind ordinance was more specific than that in other counties.
“Don’t let the wind company bully you into passing this ordinance,” Anderson said.
Schumacher said he didn’t feel bullied, and that the only way to reduce taxes is to find other revenues – such as turbines.
Supervisor Joh Martyr agreed too that deciding siting turbines case by case would hinder development.
“I think this ordinance does a good job of establishing some standards,” said Sokolski, adding that Emmet County is one of few Iowa counties to establish a noise standard.
“I think people have raised some issues that are important issues,” Solotnik said., noting there are crop dusters who will work within the footprint of wind farms.
When Klaus asked whether his company would use eminent domain to site transmission lines, said Sokolski, “It’s not something we do.”
The board approved third reading. However, members decided to delay ordinance adoption until the Oct. 18 meeting.
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