More than 100 residents attended a public hearing in Riviera Wednesday to voice their opposition to a proposed wind farm that would install nearly 80 wind turbines throughout the community.
The nearly two-hour public meeting was held at the Sea Wind Resort Recreational Center, which was filled with residents from Kingsville and Riviera. All four Kleberg County commissioners, as well as County Judge Juan Escobar, were also in attendance.
“You are concerned citizens of Kleberg County, and I appreciate that,” Pct. 2 Commissioner Chuck Schultz said to the roomful of attendees at the start of Wednesday’s meeting.
The meeting was held following a request by Riviera residents for a chance to voice their concerns about a proposed wind farm scheduled to be built in the area by San Antonio-based Texas Wind Group LP. Dru Steubing, managing member of the group, has said the developer has been closely coordinating with personnel at Naval Air Station-Kingsville in order to have the least amount of impact possible on operations at the base.
But residents at the meeting expressed concern about the impact wind turbines could have on the quality of life for rural landowners. Riviera resident John Saenz said the wind farm could negatively impact property values, which in turn would negatively affect tax revenue for local governmental entities, like Kleberg County.
According to a recent study by Gardner Appraisal Group Inc. of San Antonio that Saenz presented on Wednesday, property values for land within two miles of a wind farm decreased by 25 percent.
“What I’m concerned about is the tax base. What is this going to do in the long term?” he asked.
Saenz also said the noise and shadow, which causes a flickering effect in some areas, from wind turbines would also negatively impact the quality of life for people living near the large devices. He said there were also safety issues present, such as risks from collapsing turbines or engine fires.
“This doesn’t make sense to me,” he said of the wind farm’s location in a populated area.
Linda Hamilton said she was born in Kingsville, but raised in Riviera, where she now has her home. A former teacher in the Riviera Independent School District, she urged those in attendance to work together and oppose the proposed project.
“I have not heard one reason that this community needs to tolerate this,” she said.
Hamilton said the open space and natural scenery prevalent in Riviera is unique and would be irrevocably damaged should the wind farm move forward. She said her family through generations has passed down the land on which she will now make her home, and was one of the first pieces of property obtained from the King Ranch.
The goal is to pass it on to her daughter, but she would prefer to do so without a wind farm nearby, she said.
“If there is anything you can do collectively, do it, to stop the progress of this,” she said.
“I’m going to be a member of this community until I die,” she added. “I want to see the pristine country that I grew up in. Keep it that way, people.”
Riviera resident Juanita Hubert said she was a property owner who signed a lease with Texas Wind Group, but announced at the meeting that she planned to write a letter to the developer cancelling her involvement with the project. She said she would also return more than $700 that had been paid to her by Texas Wind Group thus far.
“If we sit idly by while these monstrosities are erected, we will regret not making every attempt to stop this tragedy from taking place around the countryside we have been blessed to care for,” she said.
County officials said following the meeting that they would consider a resolution opposing the wind farm, and others like it, at a future meeting. A draft of the resolution was available, at Wednesday’s hearing for review.
The City of Kingsville adopted a similar resolution last month in opposition to the project and similar proposals.
On Thursday, Steubing confirmed that his company was still set to sign an agreement with the U.S. Navy later this month, but was unable to comment further due to a prior commitment. He did not respond to additional questions sent via email as of press time.