Leaders in southwest Iowa’s Page County held two public hearings this week to gather residents’ comments on wind power, whether to allow more wind turbines to be built or to enact tighter regulations on the turbines.
County Supervisor Chuck Morris says the purpose of the meetings is to find a way to balance property rights with economic opportunities. “Our intent in having an ordinance is to protect people,” Morris says. “I’m proud of that fact. Is it perfect? No, that’s why we’re debating here. How do we make this ordinance work best for everybody? It’s a tough issue. You have land rights that are important, whether that’s with a windmill or without a windmill.”
Morris pointed to other counties in the state which have no wind turbine ordinances. He says having something on the books promotes expansion of the industry while providing some sort of protection for property owners. “If you have an opportunity for some expansion in your economy and in your tax base, we’re not doing our job if we don’t take a reasonable look at it,” Morris says. “We very much appreciate the feedback. I wish that there was an answer that everybody is going to happy, but that’s not going to happen.”
Page County resident Rex Engstrand says if the county goes too far with setback regulations, wind energy companies will not invest the time or money to come there. “Any time you put ordinances in place,” Engstrand says, “you’re keeping companies from being able to come in — some for very good reasons — but you are limiting your tax base, you’re limiting your property owners the option to put windmills up.”
Resident Jane Stimson says one of the reasons she chooses to live in Page County is because of a lack of “visual pollution,” while adding wind turbines would negatively affect her view. “I appreciate being able to see the sunrise, the sunset and I’ve put trees in my yard so I could keep my view,” said Stimson. “I’ve got a pleasant ridge that I can pretend is a mountain ridge and to have windmills in that sight, would make me crazy.”
Resident Galen Peery says he recently moved to Page County from Ida County, where about 150 windmills are located.
“The biggest concern up there was the noise, the interference with televisions, if you’re just on an antenna,” Peery says. “We had a lady come in who had had one for several years. She said there was a crop reduction. The biggest complaint up there is that it messed up the scene of the outdoors.”
Robin Sunderman, who lives on a farm northwest of Clarinda, expressed concern over the decommissioning of wind turbines. She also outlined the dangers of turbines to the environment, as well as the impact on land values. “In my opinion, instead of having fields of dreams in Iowa,” Sunderman says, “we’re going to have fields of abandoned junk in the next 20 years.”
Board members say any possible ordinance changes won’t take place until mid-January at the earliest.
(By Ryan Matheny & Mike Peterson, KMA, Shenandoah)