(Clarinda) – Page County has placed a moratorium on the filing of any wind energy applications.
During its regular meeting Tuesday morning, by a 2-1 vote, the Page County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution placing a moratorium for up to 180 days on the filing of any permits for Wind Energy Conversion Systems to allow the board to review the current related ordinance. However, Supervisor Jacob Holmes disagreed with the final sentence that exempted any permits already filed to the county, saying there is a big jump from submitting a permit application versus having already been granted that permit by the county.
“I think that knowing that there’s some harm that could happen, which is what we’re saying with this, that there is possible harm to property rights or whatever, this needs to be in effect so we can look to protect everyone in Page County,” Holmes said. “We have not issued any permits, if a permit had been issued then they’re grandfathered in, but no permit has been issued. So I would like to see the last sentence struck.”
Currently, County Engineer J.D. King is still reviewing Invenergy’s “Shenandoah Hills” wind farm project that would straddle the Page-Fremont County line south of Shenandoah.
Holmes then made a motion to strike the final sentence from the resolution. However, Supervisor Chuck Morris, who cast the lone dissenting vote, says he is against the idea of any moratorium. He says he feels the ordinance has worked in the past, and it puts a “closed for business” sign on the county.
“We had two developments that were ongoing in 2019, and in East River and Buchanan Townships that development did not work out because enough landowners did not sign up,” Morris said. “This is a property rights issue for a landowner in my mind from day one and still is today. And to put a moratorium of any kind on development and to put a “we’re closed for business” sign on Page County is wrong for Page County in my view and I will not support it.”
In terms of potential litigation with Invenergy should the board include already filed projects in the moratorium, Page County Attorney Carl Sonksen says a pathway is still unclear in how the courts would handle the case. This is due to the Hardin County case being voluntarily dismissed by RWE Energy before trial.
“For various reasons, I think they listed it as business interest for their business, a portion of the company decided it wasn’t productive, and even if they succeeded there would be a long period before they were able to do anything on that,” said Sonksen. “Same law firm, different company, kind of different circumstances, I don’t know if it provides any pathway or understanding of how the court was going to rule with that.”
The amendment to strike the sentence exempting projects already filed ultimately failed by a 1-2 vote, with Holmes casting the lone vote in favor.
Supervisors Chair Alan Armstrong says he is more open to looking at potential future changes for the ordinance and added as technology changes or improves, so should the county’s ordinance.
“There’s certain things that maybe can be adjusted, technology has changed, the lighting system, the sound issue, that may all change just because of changing in the development of the project,” said Armstrong. “Decommissioning, heights, we don’t even know what they’re looking at, if they’re building a 500-foot tower or three-foot tower.”
With the resolution passed as written, Invenergy’s permit application would not be subject to any of the changes made in the resolution, and the proposal has yet to be presented to the board for a public hearing or approval.
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