Tama County farmer challenges Board of Supervisors action reaffirming outdated commercial wind energy ordinance
TOLEDO, Iowa – On June 22, Plaintiff Richard W. Arp, a fourth-generation Tama County crop and livestock producer who farms near Clutier, filed a petition for declaratory judgment against the Tama County Board of Supervisors in the Iowa District Court in and for Tama County.
A declaratory judgment is a binding judgment from the Court to determine the rights and obligations of each party.
Arp, a member of the Tama County Against Turbines LLC (TCAT) coalition asks the Court to declare the May 16, 2022, Tama County Board of Supervisors’ re-adoption of the 2010 Tama County Zoning Ordinance VI.I Amendment Number 1, regulating commercial wind projects, as illegal and void as the Supervisors failed to provide required notice or to hold the requisite public hearing to allow for public input.
Supervisors reaffirmed the ordinance May 16 without any changes, despite the public outcry by hundreds of residents calling for a comprehensive revision and modernization of the ordinance.
Hundreds of petitioners have called for significant changes to the ordinance last approved 12 years ago, in 2010, after first being a part of the County’s master zoning ordinance adopted in 1998.
“Nothing of substance has changed in Tama County’s ordinance requirements for industrial wind projects for 24 years,” said Tama County Against Turbines Chairman Jon Winkelpleck, a fourth-generation crop and livestock farmer from rural Dysart. “Wind turbines now can tower 65 stories or more, operate at much greater speeds, and can cause more potential interference with communications signals like emergency 911 and other communications systems. That’s why ordinances must be updated to better protect public safety,” he said.
Arp said, “The minimal Tama County ordinances don’t provide safe setbacks from property lines which are necessary to better protect the property rights of non-participating landowners who have not signed easements for wind projects. Tama County’s current ordinance also allows far too much sound to be emitted from wind turbines.”
About the lawsuit and Tama County wind energy ordinance regulations
The lawsuit claims the Board has used the outcome of the May 16 vote “as a weapon to stifle further discussion on the matter.” For example, despite numerous public requests, the Board has refused to include concerns about the Wind Energy Ordinance on any meeting agenda since May 16, and essentially claims that the concerns by Arp, as the Plaintiff, and other residents of Tama County are now moot.
The lawsuit seeks to require the Supervisors to follow Iowa law, by providing the required public notices and holding a public hearing to allow for public input, before adopting the County’s Wind Energy Conversion System ordinance (WECS).
The wind ordinance was later separated out from the master zoning ordinance, as the Tama County Zoning Ordinance VI.I Amendment Number 1, including the Tama County Wind Energy Conversion System (WECS) Ordinance was approved and adopted in 2010.
Coalition calls for a moratorium on wind projects, changes to County ordinances regulating them
“Despite packing the Tama County Board of Supervisors meetings each week since April 25, with the largest total and sustained crowds to attend their meetings in 27 years, the Tama County Board of Supervisors still refuses to enact a moratorium or to update ordinances regulating any new industrial wind project approval, as requested by the Tama County Against Turbines’ (TCAT) coalition, which includes more than 1,000 members,” Winkelpleck said.
“The current ordinance setbacks for turbine placement from structures is a bare minimum that means wind turbines can create danger zones on the property of landowners who have not signed easements with wind project developers,” Arp said. “It’s not right that wind turbines can be allowed to encroach on the property rights, and negatively impact the safety and property values of those who choose not to sign an easement,” Arp said.
“Tama County’s ordinances must be strengthened to better protect all Tama County residents from the noise pollution, shadow flicker, the flashing red lights at night that disrupt sleep for people and animals, and to ensure that they do not disrupt emergency communications systems, among the many other concerns taxpayers have about living near industrial wind turbines,” Winkelpleck said.
Benton County doesn’t allow industrial wind or solar projects on highly-productive farmland
Neighboring Benton County, Iowa, does not allow industrial wind turbines to be placed on ag farmland with a Corn Suitability Rating (CSR), which measures potential soil productivity, of 70 or higher. TCAT speakers pointed to Benton County’s land use regulations as an example of how to update and enforce Tama county’s ordinances to protect highly-productive farmland from being used for industrial purposes like wind turbines. On June 7, Benton County Supervisors swiftly rejected a proposal by a Canadian wind project developer who sought approval to build an industrial wind project in Benton County.
More information about TCAT is available on the group’s Facebook page: Tama County Against Turbines.
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