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Supervisors candidates sound off on wind turbines

(Shenandoah) – The contentious wind turbine issue is still spinning in Page County.

That was one of the many topics addressed by candidates for Republican nominations in two Page County supervisors’ districts in a special virtual forum. Seven candidates participated via ZOOM in a forum sponsored by KMA recorded Wednesday evening, and aired for the first time Wednesday evening. During the forum, candidates were asked how they felt about the county’s current wind turbine ordinance, and what, if any, changes would they make in the existing regulations.

Judy Kennedy is challenging incumbent Chuck Morris for the district 3 supervisors’ GOP nomination. Kennedy took aim at the existing setback regulations, which states turbines must be placed at least 1,500 feet from a person’s residence. Saying the current setback was too short, Kennedy says the ordinance must be reassessed.

“I think it should be from the neighbor’s property line, not from the house,” said Kennedy. “I’ve talked to a lot of people who have been close to them. In Adair County, it’s 1,640 (feet)–and we have 1,500. Other counties have them even farther away from the wind turbine.”

Morris and the county’s other two supervisors approved the existing ordinance last fall. Before that, he says the county was facing a “free-or-all” without standards for wind structures. He also challenged the contention that the setback regulation should be changed.

“We challenged the opposition group who wanted a third night meeting,” said Morris, “show us an active wind farm in Iowa that has setbacks that are tied to the property line. They are not there. Wind companies can’t format their farms, if that’s the stipulation.

“I understand how people don’t like them. But, I also understand that people that want them, and who have signed those land leases, we should not infringe on their rights, either,” he added.

Five candidates seek the 1st district supervisors’ Republican spot. Mark Marriott also voiced support for setback regulations based on property lines, not structures. He also voiced the need for safe disposal of the turbines’ giant blades.

“My opinion would be, when they have to change the blades out,” said Marriott, “one blade brought in, one blade taken back out. In my understanding, they’re non-biodegradable, and they’re non-recyclable. So, we need to have a plan, so we don’t end up with a big stack of blades.”

Beth Steeve says residents should receive more information on wind turbines before entering into any agreement for their placement. She says the turbines impact rural living.

“It seems like Iowa has made an attempt to attract income-producing businesses augment income in Iowa,” said Steeve, “at the expense of the rural people who have to live with them. Wind farms are another example of that. Setback issues, property rights issues–these are very complex issue, and we see them in many phases in farming.”

Darin Sunderman says moving the setback limit to property lines would eliminate options for landowners considering wind turbines on their properties.

“A square 40 acres–which is kind of the basis for agricultural land–is 1,320 feet north to south, east to west,” said Sunderman. “So, if you had a non-participating person, you would eliminate another’s option on 40 acres. Actually on 80 acres, the shortest distance across would be 1,320 feet. So, if you change it to the property line, you’re going to take away the people who own 80 acres’ options, also.”

Jeff Brownfield says all of the county’s residents should have a say on the issue. Brownfield calls for a public referendum or census on wind energy production.

“See what the majority of the people in Page County want,” said Brownfield. “Then, we’ll go from there, becauase you are an elected official in this county, your voice don’t count. You’re representing the people of this county. The way I feel is, the majority should rule, and we should set this ordinance to whatever the people of this county want.”

Jacob Holmes has been a vocal opponent of turbines. Holmes questioned whether the structures are a natural fit for the county.

“Page County has never been made of industrial wind complexes,” said Holmes. “That’s not natural to the county, and, you know, status quo has the precedent. We don’t let 600-foot, 700-foot, 500-foot tall wind towers run over people’s safety. We’re talking about safe distances, not annoying. There is a safe distance that’s determined by liability, and they cannot cross your property line with their danger. Nowhere has that even happened with anything. I don’t understand how even a tree growing on one side of the fence, you’re allowed to cut it up, and just cross the property line.”

KMA airs the forum in its entirely a second time at 9:05 this (Thursday) morning. You can also hear the entire forum attached here: