Neighbors of the newly permitted Ella Butte wind farm near Ione protested the project at a Morrow County Court meeting Wednesday.
“It breaks my heart to see what’s going on in my neck of the woods due to big corporate greed,” said James Jepsen, owner of Dobyns Pest Control.
Jepsen, 47, said his 15-acre spread, an “island of domestic tranquility,” will be ruined and rendered unsalable once the turbines go up. Jepsen quoted studies about the negative health effects of living near wind turbines and their impact on wildlife.
Jepsen said the “greed of the few” is pitting neighbor against neighbor in Morrow County.
The 52-turbine, 104-megawatt Ella Butte wind farm is phase one in a much larger project designed by 2Morrow Energy LLC, a partnership of a few local landowners. The conditional-use permit lists three applicants: Ruby Ann Rohde of Kennewick, Wash., Victor Reitmann Trust and Betty Reitmann of Ione, and Crum Enterprises Limited Partnership of Ione.
Jerry Reitmann, 50, a primary organizer in the enterprise, said the entire project could exceed 1,000 megawatts and benefit about 40 properties around Ione. Morrow Energy is working with a company based in Spain, Gamesa, to develop the wind farm.
Reitmann said the partners altered their plans to exclude a few turbines close to Ione out of concern for residents. In response to Jepsen’s comments, he said, “It’s perfectly valid for people to not like the idea of having wind turbines in their neighborhood. But it’s still a private property issue.”
Another unhappy neighbor, Richard Sandford, also attended the Wednesday meeting, but Jepsen alone is appealing the project’s conditional-use permit. The county planning commission granted the permit Dec. 6.
Sandford said he did not submit an appeal before the county deadline because he was unaware of the project’s progress. For new development on farmland, the county publishes notices in two newspapers and sends letters to those who live adjacent to or within 500 feet of the project boundaries. Sandford lives about a half-mile away.
Nevertheless, Sandford submitted to the court two large binders of information about turbine effects on human health and local real estate values.
“I urge the county court to rethink putting these wind turbine facilities within at least two nautical miles of Ione for the sake of the residents living there,” he said in a letter to the court.
“We live in Ione because of the simple, peaceful, quiet life, the beautiful scenic views and abundant wildlife. This will all change once these turbines are in place and operating.”
County Planning Director Carla McLane urged the county court to deny Jepsen’s appeal. She said most of the issues Jepsen raised, such as those involving noise and wildlife, were addressed in the permitting process.
For those not addressed, such as Jepsen’s claim that turbines affect property values, she said he failed to submit sufficient evidence. For example, Jepsen said his father, who has a cochlear implant, will suffer from living near turbines, but did not provide proof to support that claim.
After hearing from Jepsen and the Portland-based lawyer for 2Morrow Energy, David Peterson, the court decided to allow Jepsen seven days to submit his appeal argument, and the partners seven days to respond. The court said it will rule on the issue Feb. 15 at 1:30 p.m. at the Port of Morrow building in Boardman.
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