Heated discussion and accusations surrounding a proposed wind farm project in Page and Fremont Counties dominated the discussion at the latest Page County Board of Supervisors meeting.
During its regular meeting Tuesday night, the board heard from nearly 20 residents during the meeting’s nearly two-hour public comment period speaking out in opposition to Invenergy’s proposed “Shenandoah Hills” wind farm that would straddle the Page and Fremont County line south of Shenandoah. Dr. Kevan Evans runs a chiropractor practice out of Maryville, specializing in functional neurology, and has lived within a quarter-mile of wind turbines in Missouri. Evans says the constant sound can cause a problem if close enough to a residence, but also the continuous and unavoidable flicker can present an issue for the impacted landowner and provided an example to the board by flashing a flashlight back and forth between the supervisors.
“Some people are going to be more susceptible to that than others, and if I turn this light on here for example, and I do this, after a while, you guys might say, ‘could you stop that please,'” Evans said. “And I’d say ‘well why,’ ‘it’s kind of irritating,’ ‘oh well I can see that and I’ll stop that.’ But you can’t imagine what the little flicker in your house does and it’s just off on the side of your vision, and it’s again, and it’s again.”
Previously stated at Invenergy’s presentation, representatives said they had nearly 270 landowners on board with the project and had contacted the majority of the affected landowners. However, Brandon Hunter, who lives on a five-acre farm near Blanchard, suggests otherwise in the percentage of landowners that the company has actually contacted.
“We visited 33 homes in one township among the wind farm foot print, one of the homes was actually signed up with the land he lives on, and one person besides him was not bothered about living in a wind farm, but he made the point to mention the land around their property was not the sort of land they needed for turbines so they were safe,” Hunter explained. “20 homes out of all of those, did not want them anywhere near their home, and three of those 20 people were very distraught when we showed them the footprint of the land around them. Four homes didn’t really care, and more or less didn’t want to fight, because they thought it was too big of a fight.”
Meanwhile, Sherry Hunter, who is Brandon’s wife, says she has had trouble communicating with the representatives from Invenergy regarding the project and says all the environmental surveys don’t mean anything if they aren’t talking to the individuals impacted by the project.
“There has to be some sort of checks and balances, little lies might seem like little lies, but we only did one township and we’ve started another township and we haven’t found anyone that says yes, not one,” Hunter emphasized. “I just want you guys to understand that, not once. So why do birds and eagles get setbacks but a suffering kid doesn’t?”
Calls were also made to amend the county wind ordinance before Invenergy submits its permit application for the project. Jesse Stimson says a proposed change to the ordinance should involve expanding the county’s 1,500-foot setback from an occupied residency to respect instead property lines which he says could serve as a compromise.
“That property line that we’ve been pushing I think is that fair and okay 50/50, right now it’s kind of 100/0 with zero on our side,” Stimson said. “So let’s go 50/50, with the property line but that neighbor still gets their turbine, and I think that’s probably the best compromise that we’re looking for. Sure, there’s some of us that would rather not have turbines, I think everybody in Taylor County maybe thinks that now.”
However, Supervisor Chuck Morris says he has concerns with changing the ordinance this late in the game with Invenergy’s proposal knocking on the county’s doorstep. He fears a change now could result in hefty lawsuits against the county.
“This question came up at our last meeting when Invenergy was here, I think Jacob (Holmes) made the comment, ‘Chuck, you said we can change the ordinance,’ and absolutely, we can change the ordinance,” Morris said. “The reality is, and you can get mad and throw stuff at me, I’m not going to change this ordinance at this point for this project, because what that’ll mean is these 400 landowners, probably Invenergy, probably Mid-American, will sue Page County.”
But, residents also questioned why this wind project’s discussion was not on the board’s agenda before the company’s January presentation to suggest any potential improvements and changes to the county’s wind ordinance.
On top of the accusations made by residents with the current Invenergy project, Supervisor Jacob Holmes says this isn’t the first time Page County has run into issues with the company sticking to its word regarding a previous project near Braddyville.
“If it was a vacuum salesman, Lyle (Palmer) would run them out of the county, that’s alarming, and it makes me think of when they were down here on the road they weren’t suppose to use west of Braddyville, and they did,” Holmes explained. “We went to them and said ‘you broke our agreement, you weren’t suppose to use this, you were suppose to go around,’ and then Invenergy, the same company, we asked them to pay to grind it up, and they offered to pay half after they broke their word. So, I’m not real impressed with the ethics of this outfit.”
The board intends to discuss the county’s wind ordinance at the next regular meeting. Meanwhile, Mark Crowl with Invenergy was present at the meeting via Zoom and says the company intends to submit its permit application within the next two weeks. However, he added he “could have been more clear” on the number of residents the company had reached out to in the project area.
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