Landowners say a company misled them to get a wind farm built in Iowa County.
The Iowa County Board of Supervisors approved a plan with Diamond Trail Wind Energy to build 78 wind turbines across the county Friday, but some people felt shut out from that decision. The vote passed 3-1, with the Chairperson Ray Garringer abstaining.
The Iowa County Board of Supervisors says more than 300 people signed agreements for Diamond Trail to put wind turbines on their land; however, some residents are concerned with how those agreements were made.
One wind turbine could be within a few thousand feet of Abby Maas’ home in Iowa County. What frustrated her the most: she only found out about that through social media.
“Kind of the reason what got me fired up about this topic was I had to find out this was even happening in our county via Facebook,” Maas said. “And I’m not even a savvy Facebook user.”
John Gahring, an Iowa County Supervisor, said the issue for him was not a matter of being in favor of or against erecting wind turbines- he argued this was an issue related to private property.
“I’m a private property rights guy, I don’t want to be the guy that tells you what you can or cannot do with your property,” Gahring said. “That’s not my job.”
According to the agreement from the Board of Supervisors, Diamond Trail has spent three years working with landowners and county officials on the project. Maas says one important piece was missing: county residents.
“We all felt very uninformed and we felt like our opinion was totally negated during this process and that we should have been heard more,” Maas said.
Opponents of the project also voiced concerns of how Diamond Trail got those agreements. Janey Stahl, who also lives in Iowa County, told TV9 company agents lied to her about agreements with her neighbors that did not exist.
“[A] sales rep lied to my husband and I when he told us our neighbors had signed up for turbines so ‘we might as well get the money if we’re going to look at them,'” Stahl wrote in an e-mail to TV9. “When we spoke to our neighbors, they confirmed they did NOT sign Invenergy’s contract.” Invenergy is the parent affiliate of Diamond Trail.
Gahring said he heard those claims from residents, but there was no definitive proof.
“Well they’re not saying it didn’t happen but I don’t have any proof that it did,” Gahring said. “Other than word, which is great- I trust people. But, when you’re trying to deal with something, you need some evidence of it.”
With this project now certain, opponents now are pushing for a new ordinance to put more protections in place for the future.
“It’s just that I want the public to have more say in the rules around them and if the project should have even been started in the first place,” Maas said.
Iowa County does not have any zoning ordinances that would restrict building turbines, and if one is created or adopted, the Board of Supervisors voted those rules will not apply to this project.
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