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Wind turbine ordinance passes second consideration

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
A group of old farm buildings frame two of the wind turbines south of Fort Dodge.

A proposed update to Webster County’s zoning ordinance that governs the development of wind turbine projects has passed its second reading by the Board of Supervisors and will be reviewed once more before the board takes final action.

On Tuesday, during a public hearing on the matter, several area landowners shared their concerns and opposition to the two potential wind farm developments being considered in the northeastern part of the county. Several are completely opposed to any development of wind turbines, but the issue up for discussion at this time is the county’s existing zoning ordinance for wind turbines and whether to update it to make it more or less restrictive, or to leave it as is.

Much like the Board of Supervisors’ June 6 meeting, every seat in the board’s meeting room was filled and many others remained standing throughout the meeting.

Mary Larson, of rural Vincent, said she had concerns about her neighbors who live on small acreages who might decide to move away if wind turbines are erected in the area. She also expressed concern for the farmland in the area.

“We all need to be good stewards of our land and take care of the richest soil in the world that we have,” she said.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
From about a half mile away, details on the wind turbines south of Fort Dodge become visible against the blue sky.

Another resident, Laurie Legvold, also of rural Vincent, said she never anticipated that the area she’s lived in for decades would become an “industrial park for green energy.”

“I want to point out that within a four-to-five-mile radius of my home now, we have already given back in the name of green energy practices in these three ways,” she said. “No. 1 is we have a solar farm, 900 acres that was farm ground, 25,000 solar panels. No. 2, we have CO2 pipelines running through. No. 3, less than two miles from our house, they are drilling for hydrogen gas.”

Legvold said her point is to ask how many times the same area has to be used for the purpose of green energy.

“You call it ‘green energy,'” she said. “It is seeming more like ‘greed energy.'”

Although Legvold referred to “CO2 pipelines running through,” no carbon dioxide pipelines have been approved or built.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Framed against a hazy sky, some of the wind turbines south of Fort Dodge make a pattern against the sky as they generate electricity.

Dan Larson, of rural Vincent, is a former firefighter and says that fire departments do not have the capability to battle fires caused by wind turbines.

Tom Hoyt said he lives on a farm east of Vincent that has been owned by his family since 1883.

“I’d like to say I’m 100 percent against these damn windmills,” he said. “And the thing that’s causing this whole thing is a word Laurie spoke earlier — greed.”

Hoyt said that he believes 90 percent of the farmers and landowners who have signed up to have wind turbines built on their property don’t need the money.

“It’s greed,” he said. “They want more money — people never get enough of it. They don’t care about the land or nothing. There will never be windmills on my property.”

Officially, there are no active wind farm development projects in Webster County, though two developers — MidAmerican Energy Co. and Invenergy — have started to approach some landowners in the eastern and northeastern part of the county to obtain voluntary easements for wind turbine construction. That activity led to the Webster County Planning and Zoning Commission to look at the zoning ordinance for the construction of wind turbines.

Under the current ordinance — enacted about a decade ago for the Lundgren Wind Farm project in southern Webster County — commercial wind turbines cannot be constructed within 150 feet of property lines; 600 feet of wildlife management areas and state recreational areas; 600 feet of wetlands; or 1,000 feet of neighboring dwelling units.

After several public meetings this spring with input from residents, land owners and project developers, the commission settled on stricter setback requirements that it felt were a compromise between what landowners who are opposing a new project and the project developers proposed. That compromise included revised setback requirements of:

• 2,500 feet from non-participating parcels of land less than five acres in size

• 2,500 feet from a residential dwelling unit on a non-participating parcel of land greater than five acres

• 1,000 feet from a residential dwelling unit that has a participating residential dwelling owner

The setback requirements proposed also include a minimum of 1.1 times the tower height away from property lines, roads, cemeteries and other structures; minimum of one mile away from state parks, county conservation areas and the Des Moines River; and minimum of 600 feet from United States Fish and Wildlife Service wetlands two acres or greater in size.

Representatives of both MidAmerican and Invenergy have stated several times that their companies do not intend to use eminent domain to obtain land easements and that participating in their projects would be 100 percent voluntary.

During the first consideration of the zoning ordinance on June 6, Supervisor Mark Campbell proposed a compromise by amending the proposed ordinance from a 2,500-foot setback for non-participating dwellings to a 1,800-foot setback from all dwellings, keeping the remaining requirements as proposed.

Supervisors Niki Conrad, Campbell and Bob Thode voted to pass the consideration as amended, with Supervisor Austin Hayek casting the lone opposed vote. Supervisor Nick Carlson said that due to his ownership of some land in the northeast part of the county, he would recuse himself from voting on the issue.

When the vote came up again on Tuesday, Carlson was joined by Hayek, who also chose to recuse himself. Conrad, Campbell and Thode voted again to pass the consideration as previously amended to the next phase.

Before the ordinance is adopted, it must go through one more public hearing and consideration by the board. That hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on July 5.

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