Piedmont’s city council expressed a desire for citizens on both sides of the wind turbine debate to work together, but a spirit of cooperation doesn’t appear to be in the cards following Monday’s heated meeting.
Four property owners in Piedmont with leases to construct wind turbines on their land have applied to deannex from the city. The council heard their case during Monday’s meeting through a hired attorney, but the majority of a standing-room only crowd appeared to voice opposition to the request, saying they did not want to see wind turbines built inside or near Piedmont.
After an hour-long discussion devoted to the issue, the city council voted to postpone any decision on the deannexation request, punting the issue to it’s next meeting.
Mark Henricksen, an attorney representing the residents looking to deannex, said his clients lived in a rural environment that was not receiving the same services as more urban areas of Piedmont. He also said allowing his residents to deannex, opening the door to wind turbines northwest of Piedmont, would not hurt the city’s ability to develop because the likelihood of development taking place in that part of town is low.
“They are the best ones to determine the best use of their property,” Henricksen said. “Let my clients go.”
Without offering any details, Henrickson also indicated that a lawsuit might be filed against the city if the deannexation request were denied.
Following Henricksen’s comments, several residents against the construction of wind turbines said they were not in favor of the city allowing the deannexation request.
“We chose to be in the city to be protected and so did these people,” said Pam Suttles, a Piedmont resident and spokesperson for an anti-windmill grassroots organization. “Now we need to be protected from them.”
Following the time allowed for public comments, the council discussed the issue and appeared to be undecided. However, Councilman Charles Coffman voiced his opinion that the deannexation request should be denied.
“We were elected to protect our citizens and, to me, its very clear right now that we need to say ‘no’ to the deannexation,” Coffman said.
None of the other councilmen expressed a clear opinion but Larry Gage said he hoped to see a compromise made that pleased both sides.
“This is not a simple answer,” Gage said. “Why can’t we do both?
“I moved to Piedmont and I didn’t want it to change. But it’s going to change.”
A large crowd was mostly partial against deannexation – at least according to public comments and applause given following anti-wind statements – but members of the audience engaged in some debate with one another before Mayor Valerie Thomerson interjected. During the council discussion, members of the audience also shouted comments, which forced Thomerson to ask a member of the audience to leave.
The crowd also engaged in a debate when one of the property owners requesting to deannex said his family had originally annexed into Piedmont many years ago when they wanted protection from a proposed hazardous waste facility. That comment had those against deannexation calling him a hypocrite.
The city’s planning commission had already voted down a windmill ordinance last year, effectively preventing the construction of wind turbines inside the city limits. Apex Wind Energy has proposed a wind farm west of Piedmont that had originally included parts of the city. Following the planning commission’s decision, property owners with leases made their deannexation request.
“I’m sad about this whole deal because I grew up in Piedmont and I think this has divided friends and neighbors,”Piedont resident Glen Hyde said during a time for public comments. “This has divided Piedmont.”
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