I have lived in Cass County my entire life. I am your typical “small town girl.” I married a farmer, bought a house and have three beautiful children.
We have built a life here in this beautiful section of America, and we are happy here. We love the open landscape, the bright night stars, the summer skies filled with fireflies and the quiet peacefulness of the countryside. I love my neighbors. I love the families that my children attend school with. I love that I know all of my children’s teachers and can call many of them friends. I love that when I go grocery shopping I usually run into people I know, and that along the way to town I can name most of the people that live in the homes that I pass. This is “the country life.”
But lately in Cass County, our sweet country life has been disrupted. It’s like there is an elephant in the room everywhere I go. A topic that you are afraid to mention for fear of what that person you’ve known your whole life might think. Do we agree? Do we disagree? Will things be awkward between us if I say the wrong thing? This big bad elephant has blown into town and things just haven’t been the same since. Neighbors aren’t speaking, families did not get together for Christmas, people stopped attending church, friendships torn apart … this is NOT the country life.
What is this big bad beast that has blown into town? Wind. No, not the cool breeze you feel while sitting on your porch in the evening. This is a storm. The kind that has made us all hide in our houses while we wait for it to blow over. But unfortunately, this is the worst storm we’ve ever had, and it may not blow over.
Cass County passed an ordinance years ago allowing industrial wind farms to be placed just 1,000 feet from our homes. At a time, when turbines were around 300 feet tall, this meant a setback was more than three times the height of a turbine. You would think that because our proposed turbines could be over 800 feet, our ordinance would be updated to at least 2,400 feet. But no, our commissioners are not budging.
My home is surrounded by land that has been signed over to the wind developer, so I very well may be boxed in by giant turbines. Giant is not an overstatement. These behemoths will stretch between 660-820 feet into the sky – the sky that was once open and untainted.
That is not the life I chose. That is not the life my parents chose for me. My parents and grandparents knew what a wonderful place this was to live and raise a family in, and they had hoped that I would do the same. Unfortunately, I am left with a difficult decision. Do I stay and endure the broken friendships, the broken family, the littered landscape and the possibility of health problems for me and my children, or do I pack up and leave?
I am angry that I was put in this situation. I am angry that our commissioners are refusing to revisit our wind ordinance and are not even considering the possibility that this could be the biggest mistake of their lives, and the lives of thousands of people.
Whether or not you will live next to a turbine, your life will change. Our lives will change. Our culture will change. Do you really think our small town life will just return to normal once the turbines are built? Do you think those opposed will just adapt and get over it? I have even heard some insensitive people say, “Then move!” That is certainly something we are considering, but unfortunately, there are at least 1,485 of us considering it. That’s how many people signed the petition to try and change the fate of our county. How will 1,485 people be able to sell their homes? That’s more than 4 times the population of some local towns! Four whole towns of people … gone? What would that do to our local economy? What would that do to our local schools? What would that do to our way of life?
I am just one person, but I am one of many families that have lived here for generations. These generations and these families are the ones who built this county and this way of life. And we are being told to move? Wow. What a sense of community.
There is one thing I plan on doing before I move, if it comes to that. It will be to move my vote to another choice for commissioner in the next election. That is one move the majority of us are anxious to make.
Ashly Berry is a resident of Cass County.