Setbacks, dismantling, taxes highlight turbine meeting

Some of what is known about wind turbines in Page County is on paper.

What isn’t fully known is how development of wind turbines will impact the people and area.

Page County Board of Supervisors held the first of two, town-hall style meetings Monday, Dec. 16 at the courthouse in Clarinda getting opinions and comments from the public about having wind turbines. In October, the board approved ordinances related to the operation and placement of the towers that can stand as tall as 300 feet and use the wind to generate electricity.

For more than the past year, county officials have been informed by related companies interested to build them in Page County. The discussion among approximately 60 people lasted about two hours.

“We can’t decide what comes into the county,” said Supervisor Chairman Alan Armstrong. “You, the landowners can. We could have done nothing and people would have done this individually. We have to protect the 15,923 people who all have different views.”

Robin Sunderman called turbines “short-term money” as she said turbines are a threat to birds, bats, soil quality and quality of life.

“They devalue property,” she said. “People don’t want to live by noisy generators.”

She emphasized the process to decommission and deconstruct a tower should it no longer be needed. Saying they have a life expectancy of at least 20 years, she fears what to do with them as it is extremely difficult to dispose of them, let alone the cost of dismantle.

Page County Supervisor Jon Herzberg, who also sits on the Page County Landfill board, said the landfill will not accept a wind turbine part because of their size and inability to decompose.

“The huge question is on what to do with decommission. We are going to have fields of abandoned junk,” Sunderman said.

Armstrong said decommission was a high priority by the supervisors while researching the ordinance.

“It won’t be a perfect world. That was our biggest concern, not where they go, but 20, 30 years down the road,” he said.

Supervisor Chuck Morris suggested related companies have a bond to pay for decommission to “protect our farmers and landowners.”

Ryan Yrkowski, who spoke when the supervisors approved the ordinances, referred to the health nuisances or hazards created by turbines from disrupting sleep patterns to creating a noise.

Kristi Mcenaney, a lease agent for TradeWind working in Missouri, said a turbine is no louder than a grain bin dryer a similar distance from her home. She did say the faster the turbine is working because of wind speed, the more noise is created. She said she is not bothered by the noise.

“Does your grain dryer run 365 (days a year),” Yrkowski said.

The county’s ordinance states the maximum sound level a turbine can make is 55 decibels measured from a non-participating resident.

Location of the turbines was discussed, specifically the setbacks, which is the distance to a structure. The ordinance states 1.1 times the total height of the tower, or 1,500 feet, whatever is greater. Some towers are about 300 feet including the tip of the blade.

“Other counties’ setbacks are up to 1,700 feet,” Morris said.

Page County’s ordinance can be revised.

Ashley Yrkowski said her research has shown wind turbines have caused various lawsuits in other places.

“These are people fighting, turning neighbors against neighbors. Is that what we want to happen,” she said.

Morris said the county could have had a setback up to 3 miles, “but we wouldn’t get any wind turbines. I don’t want to do that,” he said.

Counties with wind turbines have received property tax revenue from them. Morris said any additional revenue to the county will be appreciated.

“We are not living in an area booming with tax revenue. If we don’t add to the revenue, it equates to a tax increase to those who are living here. The turbines won’t guarantee no tax increase,” he said. “I’m not saying money is everything. The pressure for the board of supervisors to provide roads, law enforcement, services in the courthouse, those expenses continue to grow. It’s worrisome to us. We want to be business friendly and not shut down opportunities. There are people who want them (turbines).”

Jean Ellison said she is “on the fence” about supporting wind turbines.

“Our real estate taxes go up and up,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind if the money from that area stayed in that area.”

Mark Zaccone, a developer for Invenergy, was in attendance but declined to share details of a typical contract for a landowner to have a wind turbine on his property, citing protecting privacy for the landowner and the business.

Scott Davison said he knows of disputing families in Missouri over wind turbines, but added wind turbines are just another change in society and technology.

“Wind is clean. Think about an oil well, it makes sense to use wind and solar. When country roads were first built, that changed the landscape. The farm I grew up on has (electric) highlines crisscrossing the farm. It will never be a Norman Rockwell painting again,” he said.

Davison said there will be large flow of money related with the turbines, but he’s heard that story before.

“We were sold a bill of goods with the lottery. For a large scale, it has bled the economy. Wind is free for the taking.” he said.

A second meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 18 at the Shenandoah Fire Station meeting room.

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