FAIRBANK – Three wind turbines east of Fairbank have stopped spinning, but a court battle over their future took another turn this week.
A group of wind energy companies have asked the Iowa Supreme Court to intervene after they were found in contempt of court for failing to remove the structures built in violation of county zoning laws.
The action filed Wednesday by Mason Wind, Dante Wind 6, Galileo Wind 1 and Venus Wind 4 asks the high court to toss a June 12 ruling from District Court Judge John Bauercamper finding them and Fayette County zoning officials guilty of contempt for failing to remove the turbines already.
Bauercamper’s ruling allowed the turbine owners to avoid further penalties by halting electric production by July 2, securing demolition contracts by July 27 and removing the towers by early December.
In court filings, attorneys for the turbine companies argued they did not willingly violate any previous order of the court and contend Bauercamper overstepped his authority by ordering the turbines to come down when there were other ways through the zoning process to bring them in compliance.
They also asked the Supreme Court to exempt them from meeting the demolition guidelines until the court hears its appeal.
“The result will be to force the Wind LLCs to physically remove the turbines and suffer the associated losses … even though the Wind LLCs constructed the turbines in good faith in reliance on facially valid permits,” the wind companies said in their petition.
The city of Fairbank and surrounding land owners sued in 2015 when county zoning officials issued construction permits for the project. The turbines were already providing power to a subsidiary of Alliant Energy in 2016 when Bauercamper ruled they had been built in violation of the zoning ordinance.
Bauercamper ordered county officials and the wind companies to take steps to demolish the structures, but he put the order on hold while companies appealed his decision, subject to the posting of a $450,000 bond to cover removal costs.
The Iowa Court of Appeals upheld Bauercamper’s ruling, and the Iowa Supreme Court declined to take up the case in May.
On June 12, Bauercamper issued his contempt ruling, noting in part the $450,000 bond was never filed. Later that day, the county Board of Adjustment rejected the wind companies’ request for a variance that would have legalized the turbines.
The companies noted in their court filings they also plan to appeal the Board of Adjustment’s decision.
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