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Residents vent opinions on wind energy

SAN ANTONIO, Mo. – Several hundred residents turned out Monday night for an informational meeting designed to present facts and appraisals of a potential wind farm in Buchanan County.

One hour into the meeting, emotions among at least some of those in attendance began approaching the boiling point, as differing opinions on wind turbines were bandied back and forth.

The informal meeting was organized by Steve Reardon, who represents Marion Township on the Buchanan County Planning and Zoning Commission, and held at the San Antonio Fire Protection District east of St. Joseph. Reardon said the meeting was called “just to start a conversation” on a wind energy firm locating turbines on the east side of the county. The meeting precedes a hearing set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the courthouse for a discussion of a proposed ordinance for wind energy conversion systems. A Florida-based wind company, NextEra Energy, expressed interest earlier this year in the possibility of building a wind farm.

“Our property is dear to all of us,” added Reardon on another premise to the public meeting. “This will be a long process. … The issue is going to be around for some years.”

One section of the draft ordinance would restrict development of any wind farms to those areas of the county east of Interstate 29. The zoning board can only make recommendations to the County Commission for approval.

“It is something we’ve been working on for a long time,” Reardon said. “We’re way out in front of this. … Don’t get too deep in the weeds about this, folks. Talk to your neighbors.”

Part of the crowd consisted of residents from nearby DeKalb County, which has had its own share of issues linked to wind farms in recent years. Presiding Commissioner Kyle Carroll told News-Press NOW he chose to attend the session to help provide feedback on the various approval stages necessary before a wind farm can actually become a reality.

“You need as much information as you can,” Carroll said. “It’s still front and center for us in a lot of ways,” he added, noting ongoing litigation related to the county’s existing wind energy projects.

To a robust round of applause, Carroll suggested Buchanan County invoke a six-month moratorium prior to any decisions related to a wind ordinance. He said those preliminary talks could cover negotiations such as those tied to property setbacks.

“This is the prime location for property values to really be hammered,” Carroll told the audience. “That is your key thing. Put that baby on ice,” he said of the moratorium idea.

He said concerns from property owners of potential wind turbine locations could include claims of their interference with TV signal reception and ensuring lights remain on only per regulations governing aircraft. Statistics show property values decrease through the introduction of wind turbines, he continued.

Another DeKalb County resident, Ivan Kanak of Maysville, also attended to help provide information on his experience in dealing with wind energy issues.

“If you don’t know what the issues are, how can you ask the right questions? How can you make the right decision?” he asked.

Questions from residents included who would pay for a dismantling of a wind farm should they become decommissioned. One person hailing from DeKalb County said wind energy “has created a civil war” among neighbors.

Eastern District Commissioner Scott Burnham said wind energy is likely to become the most controversial issue for the county to discuss in the two years since he was elected to office.

“The time frame on those hasn’t been set,” Burnham said of public hearings on the matter.

As the first hour of the meeting ended, one man took to addressing the audience on the possible advantages for a wind farm. His remarks were peppered by jeers several times.

“We need to think about clean energy,” he said. “They (wind turbines) are not going to put fossil fuels out of business. It is a resource in Northwest Missouri. … I’m asking you to keep an open mind.”