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Harrisburg residents question wind farm’s potential effects on taxes, noise

Harrisburg landowners expressed various questions and concerns at an informational meeting Saturday over a potential wind farm project that E.ON Climate and Renewables is working to develop, even though some questions were left unanswered.

Members of Boone County government spoke about the changes in regulation and the amount of land that would be needed for the project to move forward, while residents expressed both support for the project and concerns over its potential impact on property value.

The meeting, held in Harrisburg High School’s gym, was moderated by Northern District Commissioner Janet Thompson and Harrisburg-area landowner Ashley Ernst.

Ernst, who helped organize the event, said before the meeting she hoped it would help inform and create a dialogue with the members of the community. No one from E.ON Climate and Renewables attended the meeting.

Kevin Strawn, 51, said he’s lived in the area his whole life and appreciated the meeting.

“This affects my family and my area,” Strawn said. “We got some good information here, but there’s still a lot left to be seen.”

A meteorological tower was placed in the area in December to collect data on wind conditions and to determine the viability of the project.

The meteorological tower is placed on the property of Brent Voorheis, a Harrisburg resident. Voorheis explained how he heard E.ON was looking to develop a wind farm in Missouri through his son-in-law’s classmate, who worked for the company.

The turbines are a ways away for the area, Voorheis said, but if the company asked to put one on his property, he’d accept.

Stan Shawver, Boone County Director of Resource Management, spoke about the changes to county regulations that would be needed for the wind farm to move forward. Current regulations aren’t adequate enough to direct such a project.

Shawver said that if regulations are created, the Planning and Zoning Commission meetings and work sessions will be open to the public for comment and information.

Based on other wind projects, Shawver said he estimates E.ON will need 15,000 to 30,000 acres of land. According to a letter sent by E.ON to landowners in February announcing the project, the company currently has agreements with landowners in the area for over 2,500 acres.

Ryan Lidholm, a real estate agent with Weichert, Realtors, said the project might have an impact on property values. Lindholm recounted a home sale where the buyer backed out after learning of the potential wind farm. The uncertainty of the project made the buyer nervous, Lindholm said.

“There were so many unknowns,” Lidholm said. “She wasn’t sure she wanted to build her dream home in Harrisburg.”

Johnnie Walker, a resident of DeKalb County in northwest Missouri, came and spoke to landowners about his experience living near turbines.

Walker said he is a member of the Concerned Citizens of DeKalb County, a group created to educate residents about wind projects such as the Lost Creek and Osborn wind farms in DeKalb. His farm sits between two sets of turbines.

Walker talked about some of the issues he and other DeKalb residents have faced since the turbines went up, including irritation over the sound of the turbines.

“If I wanted to live near Kansas City International Airport and listen to planes taking off all the time, I would,” Walker said. “There’s a reason I don’t.”

Questions about various topics including contracts, tax increases and livestock impact were unable to be answered, due to a lack of knowledge about the inner workings of E.ON’s process and other logistics.

Residents were able to ask questions for organizers to write down and present to the company at an informational barbecue dinner it is scheduled to host on Wednesday at the Harrisburg Lions Club.