Page County Board of Supervisors Windmill Town Hall

Page County's Board of Supervisors listen to public comments at a town hall meeting in Clarinda in December regarding wind turbines. From left: County Auditor Melissa Wellhausen, and Supervisors Chuck Morris, Alan Armstrong and Jon Herzberg.

(Clarinda) – “You love ‘em or you hate ‘em”—that’s how one Page County official sums up the feelings of many residents regarding wind turbines.

Late Monday afternoon, the county’s board of supervisors held the first of two town hall meetings designed to elicit comments regarding turbine development in the county. Recently, the supervisors approved an ordinance setting regulations on wind turbines. But, Supervisors Chair Alan Armstrong says the board still wants to hear feedback over the issue.

“Probably our biggest concern—the three of us—we’re very concerned about 10 years, 20 years, 30 years down the road, where the county’s going to be, who’s going to be in charge, how that’s going to be protected,” said Armstrong. “That was one of the things we spent a lot of time discussing, and looking at, and trying to be aware of.”

Residents on both sides of the issue spoke out during the meeting at the county courthouse’s Page Room in Clarinda. Galen Peery 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,” said Peery. “We had a lady come in who had had one for several years. She said there was a crop reduction—the boost per acre had reduced where they had them. The biggest complaint up there is that it messed up the scene of the outdoors—that’s all you see, is windmills.”

Robin Sunderman lives on a farm northwest of Clarinda. Sunderman expressed numerous concerns 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,” said Sunderman, “we’re going to have fields of abandoned junk in the next 20 years.”

Kristi McEnaney lives near the Rock Creek Wind Farm in Atchison County. McEnaney, who also serves as a lease agent with Tradewind Energy, disputes comments that the turbines make too much noise.

“Personally, I think they’re majestic,” said McEnaney. “The noise doesn’t bother me. The grain bin closest to my house in the same direction—or in the opposite direction to the wind farm, or the closest turbine—makes just about as much noise—or actually more noise—than the wind turbines. So, it’s a lot worse to listen to my grain bin fan that to my wind turbines.”

McEnaney also claims the windmills have increased farmland values in the county. Some residents called for the supervisors to increase the existing setback regulations in the current ordinance—currently set at 1,250 feet. While saying the county could write an ordinance with bigger setbacks for turbines—thereby eliminating wind energy production in the county--Supervisor Chuck Morris says he’s uncomfortable about an ordinance limiting economic opportunities—not to mention a possible tax revenue source for the county.

“I can tell you from three years on this board, nobody likes a tax increase,” said Morris. “Now, I’m not saying that if you put the wind turbines in Page County, we’ll never have a tax increase—don’t misquote me. But, what I am saying is we, as a board, must continuously look for opportunities that can help with property tax relief. This may or may not be one, but if we say a two-mile setback, we know it won’t be.”

Board members say any possible ordinance changes won’t take place until mid-January at the earliest. A second town hall meeting on wind turbines takes place Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the Bricker Room of Shenandoah’s Public Safety Center.