(Creston) — Concerns over the future development of wind turbines in Union and Adams counties was front-and-center during a public meeting Wednesday.
The meeting was organized jointly by the Adams County Priceless Land Coalition and Protect our Land’s Future of Union County as an informational forum for residents regarding wind turbine development. The Southern Hills Wind Farm in both counties is nearing completion and includes 34 turbines owned by MidAmerican Energy. Following a petition this summer, the Union County Board of Supervisors opted to suspend applications for further development until January 1, 2021. Tom Reavely is an attorney with Whitfield and Eddy Law Office in Des Moines and has worked who has dealt with wind turbine issues. He cautioned non-participating landowners to get all of their communication from wind energy companies in writing.
"If something they say is really important to you, make sure that's in the agreement and in writing," said Reavely. "Down the road, it doesn't make any difference what somebody told you over the kitchen table over a cup of coffee if you don't have evidence of what they said."
Saying he’s seen issues in other counties with language used in “good neighbor agreements” and easements, Reavely says wind turbines have a place, but must be placed properly.
"I'm an environmentalist," said Reavely. "People come up to me and say, 'Well Tom, aren't you on the wrong side of this. Shouldn't you be for wind farms?' I am for them. But I am only for them at the right place, if they are situated in the right place and don't affect a lot the people that live in the area."
Nicholas Scar is a licensed realtor with Iowa Realty. He says he has seen firsthand the impact that wind turbines can have on property values. Scar says his own property southwest of Earlham in Madison County was recently appraised.
"The first thing the appraiser said to me was how much do you think that's going to affect your property value?" said Scar. "I said that we'll find out. My property is about 5,700 square feet finished. I live on the Deer Run Avenue on the Pitzer Highway. He felt that my value may change up to $100,000 if those turbines come into here. That's my luck. I just built that home in 2017 and my parents live three miles away, which is why I moved back out to the country."
Scar pleaded with officials in both Union and Adams counties to shore up their wind energy ordinances and policies before more development comes into the area.
"Make the county set ordinances that are acceptable to people," said Scar. "Second, stop local tax credits. If they want to do business here, they can pay taxes like everybody else. We have paid taxes all the years. We are paying them continuously. Why should they get an exemption to come into your community. Limit the amount of turbines in the county. Do it now."
Scar also called for increased setbacks from non-participants, increased safety features on the turbines themselves, volume limits with independent testing, county approval for alterations to existing towers and strong decommissioning statements.
Francine Ide is a Union County resident and one of the founders of the grassroots group that hosted the meeting. She cited health concerns surrounding wind turbines, including an example in Brown County, Wisconsin where the local board of health declared turbines a health hazard as a project was being developed.
"Why in the world would they say these are a human health hazard?" asked Ide. "What they found was that multiple families in that county were abandoning homes. They weren't selling them. They were walking away. Think about your home. Is that something that you would be compelled to do and think of what would it take to get you to that point where you would just walk away."
The temporary suspension of wind development applications in Union County is set to expire in the new year. The supervisors have expressed a desire to tour the current project being built before they approve further development.