PAXTON – The Ford County Board intends to ensure that the construction of wind farms does not negatively affect the value of nearby land owned by people not leasing their property to a wind farm.
The board’s five-member zoning committee drafted a proposed revision to the county’s ordinance regulating wind farms last Friday in order to protect the value of non-participating landowners’ property.
Under the proposal, before a special-use permit is issued for a wind farm, the owner/operator of the wind farm must guarantee to pay the difference if any non-participating property within two miles of the wind farm ends up being sold for less than its fair cash value or assessed value.
As stated, the owner/operator will guarantee the property is sold for within 5 percent of its fair cash value or assessed value. The guarantee will be based on a property’s fair cash value unless the landowner requests and is granted a new assessment for their property from the Ford County Supervisor of Assessments Office before the wind farm’s permit is issued.
Non-participating landowners would need to make a formal complaint to the Ford County Board in order to have the property-value guarantee enforced. The board would need to determine that the complaint is valid based on the property owner having trouble selling their property due to the presence of the wind farm or instead having to sell it at a lower price than its fair cash value or assessed value.
“I do believe that when you go to sell a house and there’s a windmill right there, you are cutting the people who are willing to look at it,” said board member Tom McQuinn of rural Paxton.
Permits for wind farms
The committee also revised the ordinance Friday to include a new proposed policy for the issuance of special-use permits for wind farms.
The proposal would allow special-use permits to be valid for an initial three-year period, with one-year extensions of the permit possible. There would be no public hearing required for a one-year extension to be granted by the county board.
Currently, permits are valid for an initial three years with three-year extensions allowed without a public hearing.
Board member Cindy Ihrke of rural Roberts said allowing only one-year extensions would help prevent problems that could arise if a proposed wind farm were to conflict with any other development that occurs within the time the permit was initially issued and when the wind farm is eventually built.
Ihrke noted that under the current rules, one wind-farm developer – Apex Clean Energy, based in Charlottesville, Va. – has been granted three three-year extensions since it originally was granted a special-use permit in November 2009. And in that span, Ihrke said, the area around Gibson City and Sibley where the wind farm is to be built has changed.
“People have built houses there and all that,” Ihrke said. “So the idea (to allow only one-year extensions) was kind of to look at some sort of a way of making sure that if (a developer is) not building (a wind farm) within that first (three-year) time period (under its special-use permit) … people in the area still know the wind farm is still being worked on and if they decide to put an addition on their house or build a house on a piece of ground that never had a house on it, that the project is still going to fit in that area.
“If they aren’t building within three years, we’re just trying to make sure we stay in the loop on things, so that nine years later people aren’t hit with, ‘Oh, now we’re getting wind turbines?’ when everybody had thought they left.”
If a one-year permit extension is requested, it can only be granted if the developer submits “updated studies” related to the project’s impact.
“They might have to do new noise studies depending on how much has changed (since their permit was first issued), and they might have to look at ice-throw studies again,” Ihrke said. “I mean, the area doesn’t stay stagnant just because they get a permit; growth still happens.”
“They may have to move a turbine or two” depending on what the studies show, McQuinn added.