The boardroom was full again during the regular meeting of the Palo Alto County, which was held on Tuesday, September 6, for citizens to voice opinions over the tentatively approved Wind Energy Conversion Systems Ordinance for Palo Alto County. Representatives from different energy companies as well as county residents and landowners raised some questions and received some answers regarding wind energy.
Dennis Meyer, landowner questioning setbacks, shadow flicker and underground wire placement, items the Supervisors had changed from the draft that was sent from the Planning and Zoning Committee last month. He urged them to consider agricultural management of those landowners within the wind farm area but who choose not to sign easements.
“This is obviously a controversial issue and it’s our job to try and find the middle,” Palo Alto County Supervisor Craig Merrill began. “We are trying to do the best we can to find the middle ground and for a lot of people there is no middle ground.”
“We have a farm that could very well be affected,” Meyer said. “And we are not the only ones this could affect and we have absolutely no control over that farm and what neighbors do will definitely affect this farm.”
I have the most wind turbines going into my district and I have been out talking to people and it is 50/50 on for or against, Supervisor Chair Linus Solberg responded. “One thing that I have been talking to people about is putting the turbines in a row. The landscape will be changing and I think it’s important for developers to look at putting turbines in a row.”
“It’s been hard. It’s been a big decision,” Supervisor Keith Wirtz added. ” We get calls from both sides and we are doing the best we can.”
“There is no eminent domain in this, which is a good thing,” Merrill added. “People can not take your land against your will.”
“I just hope you really consider the people who live and work within this area and not the city people who want to voice their opinion,” Meyer said.
“We have,” Merrill responded.
“We are trying to do the best job we can and be fair to everybody,” Solberg interjected.
“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” Supervisor Ron Graettinger began. “All we are trying to do is be fair to everybody.”
“My perspective is it is all about property rights and what you do with your property and that includes those who want a windmill,” Supervisor Ed Noonan said. “We looked at maps with different setbacks and I think that is what swayed the Board.”
“We have the highest setback in the state of Iowa,” Merrill added. “But I agree that looking at the different maps helped us make a decision.”
“I have made all my decisions looking at both sides. My taxes went up this year,” Landowner Ray Grandstaff began. “But it’s not just the farmer that will benefit from this development. Everyone in the county will. I feel the county setbacks are above anyone else’s and I commend you for the decisions you have had to make.”
Other issues and questions that were raised included underground wire placement setbacks from county owned lands and decommissioning with comments coming from others in the room.
Mark Zaccone, Business Development Contractor for Invenergy, thanked the Board for their due diligence and appreciated the tough issues and decisions they have had to make.
Kay Kibbie finished the discussion telling the Board she is glad to see the board moving ahead and toward economic improvement for the county.
With that, the Board reminded all those attending that September 13 at 10:00 a.m. will be the first reading of the Wind Energy Conversion Systems Ordinance for Palo Alto County, Iowa and welcomed anyone wishing to attend and voice any additional concerns.