SCHUYLER COUNTY, Mo. – Was a massive wind farm planned for the northeast Missouri area improperly approved by one county commission?
County officials say no – while a group of local landowners say they have spotted a few red flags.
The High Prairie Wind Farm will consist of 175 wind turbines.
It’s expected to be constructed on land in Adair and Schuyler counties.
In May 2018, Terra-Gen and Ameren Missouri announced plans to build the wind farm.
It will be the largest of its kind in the state.
Last October, the Missouri Public Service Commission granted a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity for the project – essentially giving the green light for the wind farm, pending approval from commissioners in both Adair and Schuyler counties.
Paperwork filed for the wind farm with the Missouri Public Service Commission says “the project is entirely located in unincorporated Schuyler and Adair counties. No zoning approval is required from either county. Other than the commission, there are no governmental bodies that must issue permits authorizing the overall construction of the project.”
Despite that wording, the documentation also reads that “there are routine permits (such as land disturbance permits or road crossing permits) that will need to be granted as construction proceeds that are expected to be granted in a timely manner when they are needed.”
Schuyler County resident, Nakila Blessing, reached out to KTVO with concerns she and a few others in the area share about the project – they also run the Facebook page “Concerned Citizens of Schuyler County, Missouri.”
In addition, Blessing and her family recently built a new home in rural Schuyler County, and a turbine is expected to be constructed approximately 1,300 feet away.
“When I realized how close that turbine was going to be to my home, I started to do a lot of research, and I started researching with the hope to kind of console or reassure myself that it was going to be OK, and unfortunately, that is not what I discovered.”
With that research, Blessing said she and a few other landowners began to notice some red flags with how they believe the approval of the project was handled between Schuyler County Commissioners and Terra-Gen and Ameren.
“I simply just asked for a copy of the zoning that appears its from 1990, but I just simply asked for a copy of it and found out that there were some things that have not been maybe followed through with for the last numerous years regarding Schuyler County.”
KTVO’s Ashley Hoak obtained a copy of the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Regulations for Schuyler County which was officially adopted on February 5, 1990.
According to those documents, residents, prospective developers, land owners and other interested parties must follow certain procedures to obtain a permit for constructing a new building, additions to an existing building or changing land use within the unincorporated and incorporated places of Schuyler County.
Some of those procedures include: personally contacting the code enforcement officer, who is appointed by the county commission, and providing a sketch of the property showing how the proposed use will be situated on the property.
The zoning documents continue to read that the Schuyler County Planning and Zoning Commission and the county commission shall determine that the proposed use will not adversely affect the character of the area, adversely affect traffic, place undue restrictions on utilities or conflict with future plans for the area.
Finally, the documents state that it shall be a violation of this order to add to or increase floor area of or erect any building without obtaining a building permit, and it shall be a violation to use or permit the use of any land in a manner not permitted by this order.
In August, three Schuyler County residents, including Nakila Blessing, filed a petition in Schuyler County Circuit Court against the Schuyler County Zoning Commission, the Schuyler County Commission – as a body and against each county commissioner individually, and the Schuyler County Board of Zoning Adjustment.
The petition alleges various procedural and substantive flaws or failures in the county’s adoption of zoning amendments in 2019 related to wind and solar development.
They are seeking invalidation of the permit issued to the developer under the county’s zoning ordinance.
Schuyler County officials say that when the regulations were first created in 1990, the plans did not expressly permit wind farms.
Those ordinances have since been amended to explicitly permit wind farms.
According to online court documents, the county defendants have filed a motion to dismiss.
Both the developer and Ameren Missouri have applied for and been granted intervention in the lawsuit, and have also filed motions to dismiss.
At this time, a civil motion hearing has been scheduled for November 25.
The Missouri Public Service Commission says the lawsuit has not affected the developer’s financing nor continuation of the project.
KTVO reached out to attorney Ivan Schraeder, who is representing Schuyler County in the lawsuit.
Schraeder responded to initial email requests for more information on the litigation, saying he would call the next business day.
However, neither a phone call nor additional requests for comment have been returned at this time.
KTVO also reached out to Glenn Smith, with Terra-Gen to see if he could shed some light on the issue.
He responded via email saying: “Terra-Gen is now a party to litigation in this matter, and it is company policy not to make public comments re pending legislation. As such, no representatives from Terra-Gen or any of its affiliated companies will be available to answer questions on the subject matter you described in your email.”
Smith has also not returned a request for a general update on the project or a map showing where the wind turbines are expected to be constructed in the area.
Blessing adds that in addition to the issue with permits and zoning, she and other landowners are also concerned with the turbines coming into the county.
When asked what she would like to see happen, she said she would like a halt on future wind energy projects in Schuyler County, until everyone can come together and do research, and if that means putting into place an ordinance that will protect everyone, then that’s what should happen.
Terra-Gen has previously stated that “participating in the project, by any landowner, is completely voluntary.”
“We just want to make sure that people understand that we are not opposed or against the people that signed lease agreements,” added Blessing. A lot of these people are good people, and they felt they were making decisions that were best for them and their families, but we have increasing concerns about this project as a whole.”
Blessing and other members of “Concerned Citizens of Schuyler County, Missouri” recently held a public meeting to share information on the project.
Construction on the High Prairie Wind Farm is slated to be complete by the summer of 2020, but not later than December 20, 2020.
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