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Windmills generate conversation: Supervisors hear from public regarding wind turbine proposal

Wind turbines generated comments from the public once again at the Madison County Supervisor’s meeting. County officials heard from multiple people wishing to express their opinion on the proposed Arbor Hill wind turbine project, which calls for as many as 52 wind turbines for northwest Madison County – all slightly taller and larger in diameter than the Macksburg Wind Farm project of 2014.

MidAmerican Energy had gone before the board of adjustment seeking variances for the larger turbines on April 3, but after hearing from both those in favor and against, the issue was tabled for 90 days by the three-member board.

Since that early April meeting, the county has been churning with conversation regarding the wind turbine proposal. County supervisors have had a packed meeting room twice, with citizens wishing to go on record with comments both for and against the Arbor Hill project.

During Tuesday’s meeting, officials heard from Brett Terhaar, who spoke on behalf of Coalition for Scenic Preservation. He told supervisors that while he “firmly believed land owners had every right to do what they wanted within reason, and that he was not for far-reaching government interference” he was asking that officials “look at the whole project … especially the proposed variances and setbacks.”

Terhaar spoke of “safety concerns” regarding the 500-foot setbacks on property lines and 1,000-foot setbacks from residences. He recommended setbacks be more in line with those of “other states”. He also discussed a study that determined property values could drop on properties within a two-mile radius of the turbines. Health impact, sound annoyance on humans, and the impact of turbines on bats and birds was also briefly touched on.

A fifth-generation farmer from Penn Township spoke to supervisors in support of the wind turbines, as did several others, saying that “America needed green energy” and “farmers needed a way to diversify.”

Glenna Finney, from Jackson Township, spoke in favor of wind farms, telling supervisors the county “shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to have green energy.” She also said she had “lived here her whole life and had never seen people act like this – neighbors against neighbors.” After speaking, Finney presented supervisors with a petition of signatures in support of the Arbor Hills wind project.

Judy Neal, who lives on a farm in the Pitzer area, spoke in support of the project, too. “As farmers, we need to consider other options … I would like you to consider letting us have wind farms. I’m looking ahead to my grandchildren – we’d like to have something to pass on to them,” Neal said.

An audience member addressed the board, encouraging supervisors to have an updated comprehensive plan in place before the Arbor Hill project is approved.

“We know the county needs wind energy, but I would like the county to take its time in making sure you fully review what is proposed; make a comprehensive plan that will take all land owners into account.”

The county just began the process of updating its comprehensive plan, which could take a year or more to complete.

Look for the issue to come back before the board of adjustment in early July if it gets untabled.