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Black Hawk County rejects wind farm moratorium

WATERLOO – The Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors turned down a request from residents calling for a temporary ban on wind turbine development.

The decision followed a lengthy debate Tuesday between wind energy supporters and members of Cedar Valley Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy, many of whom live south of Waterloo near proposed turbines.

None of the five supervisors made a motion to approve the proposed 90-day moratorium, which would have allowed county zoning officials to review and possibly change the current zoning ordinances governing wind towers. It died without a vote.

Representatives of Desoto-based RMP Access, now working on plans for a 70-megawatt wind farm south of Waterloo, had objected to the possible delay. The company is hoping to file its zoning application for the project in November.

“We’ve been working on this project now about two years,” said RPMA’s Kirk Kraft. “That’s a long time to be working under one set of rules and then maybe have those set of rules completely change.

“When we say the Black Hawk County ordinance as it stands is probably one of the most restrictive in Iowa, we know what we’re talking about,” he added. “We’ve been in the other counties; we’ve built in the other counties.”

Patrick Dillon, an attorney for Cedar Valley Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy, asked for the moratorium so county officials could get more public input on potential changes to the 2011 ordinance.

“We agree that we’ve got a good ordinance, and we’d like to make it better,” Dillon said. “We think that there are some areas that can be looked at.”

Resident Greg Cory lives near the proposed site of the RPM Access project and also pushed for an ordinance review.

“I think that 90 days is very little to ask for what’s going to affect this county and the people who live in this county – how they live, how safe they are and what their health is – for the next 30 or 40 years,” Cory said.

A group of wind energy supporters also attended the meeting to call on supervisors to support renewable energy projects to mitigate global climate change, which is exacerbated by burning coal and fossil fuels.

“There’s no time for a moratorium on renewable energy,” said resident Margaret Whiting.

The supervisors generally supported the assertion Black Hawk County already had a restrictive ordinance.

“Personally I think we have a very quality ordinance that deals with this issue,” said board chairman Frank Magsamen. “I’m not sure that looking at tweaking it is of a real benefit.”

Supervisor Chris Schwartz said the supervisors have an obligation to “think globally and act locally” on the issue.

“We’ve got a real problem with climate change in this country and Black Hawk County needs to be a part of the solution,” he said. “I don’t want to be a part of anything that jeopardizes this opportunity we have.”