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Potential wind farm leaves northern Boone community divided

The possible development of industrial wind turbines in northern Boone County has left landowners debating whether to support the cause.

E.ON Climate & Renewables is looking to generate electricity with these turbines on land they would rent from local residents. The farm could encompass up to 20,000 acres, according to previous Missourian reporting.

A second neighborhood meeting Sunday at Harrisburg High School continued the conversation that began in February when landowners were first contacted. Both advocates and opponents attended.

Those in favor were interested in the potential added income that would come from leasing their land. They also spoke about the possible increases to tax revenue, which could go into public services like education.

Those against or unsure expressed concerns about safety, the leases, turbine efficiency, noise, turbine removal, absentee ownership, non-disclosure agreements and the ways the wind farm would change daily life. Over a dozen attendees signed a petition left out at the meeting.

Three speakers gave expert and personal opinions regarding the legal and technical specifics of the plan.

Geotechnical engineer Eric Lidholm shared his concerns about the current proposed distances from the turbines to owners’ homes and property. He recommended extending the setbacks from both homes and property lines.

“Looking at this as an engineer, I don’t want a wind turbine on my property within 2,500 feet of my house,” Lidholm said.

He noted that while E.ON will want to fit as many turbines in an area as possible, it’s important to consider safety hazards – for example, a blade malfunction – and potential noise.

Lidholm said wind energy belongs in some places but not in highly populated areas like Boone County.

“I went to the E.ON meeting, and they showed a video with all the majestic floating wind turbines going off into the distance, and I didn’t see a single barn, structure, house, anything,” he said.

Real estate appraiser Jim Hendren said the turbines could lower nearby property values or increase the number of days on the market, should the property be for sale.

Hendren also urged those considering signing to seek legal counsel on what their easements actually say. Hendren cautioned attendees that turbines could be left where they were installed at the end of the leasing period, leaving owners to address their removal. He also said the easement could allow for an automatic renewal.

Hendren also said landowners with 200 acres or more may be able to profit.

Johnnie Walker, a farmer from DeKalb County, spoke to the group about his personal experiences with a wind farm. He explained how the turbines have affected the environment as well as his ability to sell his property.

“They put these things so close to your property line that you can’t develop your own property,” he said. “That’s a big, big issue.”

Landowner Brent Voorheis is among those in favor of E.ON’s project. Voorheis already has a contract with E.ON that allowed it to build a meteorological tower to test wind conditions, according to previous Missourian reporting.

“I’ve lived in this community 66 years, I was born here, six generations in Boone County, and I wouldn’t do anything that I thought was harmful,” he said. “I think it would be good for the community.”

Erich Arvidson, who’s running for Congress, and Adrian Plank, a candidate for the Missouri House of Representatives, both said they were there to listen to public opinion.

“I’m for green energy, but I understand their concerns about heavily populated areas and what you do for setbacks,” Plank said after the meeting. “I do think there’s a place where it should and shouldn’t be.”

After the meeting, Arvidson also acknowledged those in opposition and said he appreciated everyone coming out.

“I think the safety issues are something that are of a great concern and that the local commissioner should look at,” he said.

Ashley Ernst, one of the organizers of the Concerned Citizens of Boone, Howard, and Cooper Counties, MO, is against the proposed plan. She also lamented the company’s presence in her community.

“It’s also important to remember that we are neighbors,” Ernst said at the beginning of the meeting. “E.ON and its representatives will come and go. We will still see each other at church, at the grocery store, at ball games. This is our community and our home, and it is our voice that matters.”