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County adopts wind ordinance

After hearing strong objections during the final two readings, the Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday adopted a comprehensive wind ordinance. Judy DeVore was first to object to passage again Tuesday, saying the ordinance does not protect or promote safety of county residents. In her statement, DeVore objected to: n Stray voltage. n Ice throw. DeVore cited a University of Minnesota study saying debris could be thrown up to 1,700 feet. n Shadow flicker. n Impact on surface drainage. n Lack of a funded or bonded decommissioning plan. n Provisions for conflict resolution. n Interference with satellite systems. n Provisions for damages to nonparticipating landowners. DeVore asked if the board would have power to shut down a nuisance operation. She asked too who was going to regulate noise and enforce the ordinance. DeVore also cited Roger Mckeown of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, saying that the county ordinance needed to be more specific. She further objected to having final approval during harvest. “You almost make it look like you work for the wind industry, not Emmet County,” DeVore said. Bev Juhl, board chair, said Emmet was behind area counties in adopting a comprehensive wind ordnance. Noting supervisor Tim Schumacher’s research on surrounding counties, said Juhl, “I think we’re in the ballpark.” Kenneth DeVore, Judy’s husband who objected during two previous readings of the ordinance, said a lot more has been learned about wind energy in the last two years. “Do you think you know enough about the industry to protect the people?” Judy asked the board. Juhl said the board didn’t want property line setbacks to be a lot more than in surrounding counties, and Kenneth said he would want to know they were adequate to protect neighbors. “Why do we have to have such a broad ordinance?” Kenneth said. Juhl said the zoning board had worked on the ordinance through several sessions. And, addressing Judy’s objection to approving the ordinance during harvest, said Juhl, “That was totally unintentional. It should have been done before this.” Al Blum, chair of NorthStar Wind, said the new ordinance was more descriptive than what’s now in place. “I think what we’ve done right now is the state of the art as far as zoning ordinances go,” Blum said. “I feel pretty comfortable with it as it’s written,” said supervisor Jon Martyr. “There’s certainly serious negative impacts and I think for the most part the ordinance addresses those. If we didn’t have an ordinance in place we would have no control whatsoever.” “I don’t take this decision lightly,” said supervisor Tim Schumacher, noting his concern for health in Emmet County. “That has a special place to me. Schumacher said sometimes he doesn’t agree with the Department of Natural Resources matrix evaluation for animal confinements. He said though that the wind ordinance would give the county control. “This is generally accepted as what is safe,” Schumacher said. Kenneth DeVore asked the board if it was not considering that Mckeown had to say, and Juhl said the board was taking Mckeown’s comments into consideration. She said the board had to also consider what other counties are doing. After the board approved the ordinance, said Juhl, “If there is a problem, we’ll go back and look at it again.” After approval, Blum said the wind industry doesn’t regard Mckeown as an expert on wind energy. “If it was up to him (Mckeown), there wouldn’t be any wind,” Blum said. Blum said both the NorthStar and Red Rock projects were community owned and that five attorneys have signed leases with NorthStar on their own land. Blum also said 80 percent of Iowans favor wind energy. Supervisor Alan Madden said shadow flicker is addressed in the Emmet County ordinance but not mentioned in the Dickinson County ordinance upon which the Emmet County ordinance is based.