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Worth County Planning and Zoning receives public comment on wind ordinance draft

Nearly 100 people gathered in Kensett last night to make their voices heard over the draft of the wind turbine ordinance put together by the Worth County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Over half the people in attendance wore white shirts to show their support for the consensus statement on the 2021 Worth County, Iowa wind ordinance draft. The draft was put together by the Concerned Residents of Worth and Winnebago Counties (CROWW).

Even planning and zoning commission member Todd Rothove wore a white shirt, which he says was to support the CROWW’s immense participation in the public forum.

The discussion over regulating wind turbines in Worth County has become a hot topic due to Invenergy’s Worthwhile Wind project, which aims to introduce a 30,000-acre wind farm to Worth County.

Opponents of the project point to the harmful impact wind turbines have on residents. Those in opposition claim the adverse effects of the turbine include noise, flicker and safety issues.

Proponents of the project claim that wind turbines haven’t been a controversial topic until recently, and that the proposed project would bring in $4.8 million in tax revenue the county would receive for infrastructure improvements.

The majority of the more than 20 people who decided to speak to planning and zoning last night did so to show their support for more regulation over wind turbines.

“We just want to highlight the devastating impact of wind turbines,” said one woman in a white shirt who spoke at the public forum.

“This is about the health, safety and welfare of all people,” said another resident.

One of the main points of contention with the ordinance brought up by those who spoke was the setback distance. The setback distance from adjacent property lines currently sits at 1,600 feet or 3.75 times the total height or the manufacture safety distances.

Many different setback distances were recommended throughout the evening, but one of the more popular distances recommended by those in opposition of wind turbines was 2,000 feet from property lines.

The 2,000-foot setback comes from a PowerPoint slide allegedly given by the Worthwhile Wind project a few years prior.

While fewer in number, some proponents of the project wearing grey Worthwhile Wind t-shirts also raised issues with the setback distance in the ordinance draft.

One resident who spoke said the current setback distance from property lines is too much, and restricted the property rights of those who wanted the turbines on their property.

Many residents also presented personal anecdotes of the impact wind turbines have had on their lives.

A farmer from Deer Creek spoke to the planning and zoning commission about the impact wind turbines have had on his life and business.

“My house literally shakes (because of the wind turbines),” he said.

The farmer also claimed that the turbines, which he says are more than a quarter-mile from his property, have impacted his cattle and cost him money.

Another resident in Winnebago County spoke of the impact wind turbines had on her home.

“It’s like when someone dies,” she said. “It (her house) literally is never going to be the same.”

Other residents spoke of concerns over sound measurement, light flicker and setbacks from Iowa DNR recognized eagle nests and city limits.

The final speaker of the evening was a spokesperson for Invenergy, who wanted to clarify that Invenergy believed that due to their vested rights, the Worthwhile Wind project would not be subject to any of the regulations from a potential ordinance.

Jeff Gorball, the Worth County Planning and Zoning Commission Chair, disagreed but admitted it was not a decision he would have any impact on making.

“The reality is it’s not a question we will solve tonight,” Gorball said. “It’s above our pay grade, as they say.”

Invenergy had voiced its displeasure with the current ordinance before the meeting, calling it “disastrous” in a letter sent to Worth County residents last week.

The Worth County Planning and Zoning Commission will now meet to discuss the public feedback they received at this meeting. Once the commission decides on a final draft of the ordinance, they will present it to the Worth County Board of Supervisors. The board of supervisors will then decide whether to pass the ordinance as is, change the ordinance or not pass the ordinance altogether.

Worth County Planning and Zoning Commission meets once a week on Wednesday nights; all their meetings are open to the public.