The Wind Energy Conversion Systems Ordinance For Palo Alto County received unanimous approval during the third and final reading that was attended by over 40 landowners and citizens during the regular meeting of the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, September 27.
“I appreciate that people have a say in it and a passion for it. Over a period of time it has been nice to work with this Board and the Zoning Board. They’ve done a lot of work and research on this since December,” Supervisor Chairman Linus Solberg began. “We are lucky here. We live in America and we live in a democratic society. We are not going to please everybody. If you are not happy we are doing the best job we can, you can replace us.”
Scott Buchanan, Attorney from Buchannan Law Offices of Emmetsburg and Algona began the reading a few changes that included adding the Palo Alto County Emergency Management Coordinator and all municipalities in Palo Alto County within two (2) miles of any proposed WECS facilities were added to Section 4 subsection c. and in Section 6 Subsection a., ii, the addition of requiring all lines going under an open ditch, creek or river to be buried eight feet below the base of the waterway.
Buchanan also reiterated the process in which the site plan approval and application would be approved by going to the Zoning Administrator and 15 different agencies prior to going to the Zoning Board and then to the Supervisors for approval. Buchanan noted that with good reason, the Supervisors could still deny an application.
Everyone in attendance had the option to speak, voicing opinions one last time prior to a vote.
“As far as decommissioning, I would again caution the Board on the wording “between the County and the developer,” citizen Dean Gunderson said. “The landowner should know and understand the risks that they have.”
Mike Brown was concerned by a 500-foot setback from nonhuman dwellings.
“I have just one question for the Board and I would like a response from each one.,” Brown said. “It looks as if the project will go forward. How many turbines is this county going to have?”
“I think the maximum in the county should be 300 to 350,” Supervisor Ron Graettinger said.
“I think 300 is too many personally,” Supervisor Ed Noonan responded. ” I said from the beginning that this is a contract between the landowner and the wind company and that is something we will have to discuss. How many is to many.”
“I was thinking 300, but Ed’s right, it needs to be discussed,” Supervisor Keith Wirtz stated.
“This is going to be by project. It’s hard to put a number on it,” Supervisor Craig Merrill said. ” I would do it by project.”
“I’ve been getting all the phone calls. Carmen says we can’t put it in the general election.” Solberg responded. “But I would not have a problem with having each township vote on it like they do in Minnesota. Possibly have the next wind company come in and bid for our space.”
“I have a question for all the Supervisors, have you read any of these agreements?” Jay Clasing, landowner asked.
“That is between the owners and the wind company’s,” Solberg responded.
“Have any of you been approached?” Classing asked.
“Initially I was approached and a contract left at my house and I gave it to Peter to read,” Noonan replied.
“Would any of you put a windmill on your own personal property?” Clasing questioned.
“That’s not a question we need to answer,” Solberg answered. “I have answered that previously. If I say no, then I’m against wind. If I say yes, then I’m for wind. We have been accused of being negative and then being cheerleaders so we are trying to remain neutral.”
“I’m a little disappointed to see that there is nothing protecting privately owned wetlands,” Brian Garrels.
“For public there is, for private there is not,” Solberg said. ” We feel that our Zoning Board has bent over backwards top let us run this like we do our hog buildings. The Zoning Administrator brings this to the Zoning Board. The Zoning Board will weigh out is the private land is a half acre or 30 acres. We don’t want to put ourselves in a box.”
“Will a private landowner be notified on projects in the area?” Garrels questioned.
“Yes,” Buchanan responded. “Anyone within one mile will be notified.”
“Where is the Good Neighbor Policy? You were instrumental in getting this for the hog industry,” Denny Steier, landowner said. “Do you call 1.500 foot a good neighbor policy. It’s a joke for those who don’t want these things and are being forced.”
“There’s a lot of difference between the hogs and hog smell,” Solberg responded. “I think I felt a bit guilty when I saw the maps. There is not much difference between 1,500 and 1,800 feet. But I have said before, I am not going to be Chairman of the Palo Alto County Supervisors and run these people out of the county is they are willing to compromise. There is not one county in the State of Iowa that has a setback of 1,500 feet.”
“Why do you suppose that is?’ Steier said. “It’s because these companies come in and say we can’t do that. It’s big money against personal rights, personal property.”
“The people that want a windmill have personal and property rights also,” Merrill said.
“Granted. So let the wind energy companies come up with a plan,” Steier said. “That will work for everyone, Planning and Zoning came up with a half mile. Nobody knows how much these companies stand to make, but yet, we as landowners will have to change the way manage a property, work a property alive our life in amongst these things.”
“Denny, when you say there is no say, we’ve set it up so there is a say,” Noonan responded. You can come in and look at the project and say there is a windmill 1,500 feet from my property. I look at this and say why can’t you get farther away from this residence. This is a residence that did not sign up, why can’t you get farther away? I see the process working that way.”
“What’s the Boards feeling when you know you have a resident that is terribly upset?” Steier asked.
“My feeling,” Noonan said. “I’m gonna ask them to be a good neighbor, you know what that is that’s a half mile.”
“I can live with that if you people are going to stick to your guns and not let them tell you what’s going to be done in the county,” Steier said. “I’ve been to every meeting and it’s been hands down that more than 50% are against the windmills at these meetings.”
“It’s about the relationship between the landowner and the company,” Merrill said.
“The cost versus the benefit for us here, we actually impact the world with our crops,” Lois Stillman landowner said. “We have a legacy to leave and I don’t want to see what we have been given soil, land, wildlife ruined.”
There were other concerns voiced that echoed what had been said already. It was time for the Supervisors to make final comments.
“I would ask that the wind company’s work on being good neighbors,” Noonan began. “I would also stress that the landowners get a lawyer to read the contracts before you sign.”
“I hope everyone understands we’ve tried to do the best we can for all concerned,” Wirtz commented. “It’s about freedom.”
“When you are sitting on this side of the table, it was between running them out of the county or letting them into the county,” Merrill said.
“You represent everyone in the county. Why did the half-mile set back get changed? Wayne Knudson Jr. asked.
“I do not feel it was in the best interest of the citizens of Palo Alto County,” Merrill replied.
In a roll call vote all Supervisors voted yes to pass Resolution 9/27/2016 approving the Wind Energy Conversion System for Palo Alto County.
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