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Wind Energy Ordinance Takes Over Board of Supervisors’ Meeting

By Staff | Feb 9, 2016

Several landowners and representatives from two separate wind energy companies met with the Palo Alto Zoning Commission to begin reviewing and discussing a proposed Wind Energy Device Ordinance for Palo Alto County on Monday, January 25.

According to Zoning Administrator Joe Neary, ordinances from other counties in the state have been collected and a rough draft has been written for review and considerations. The original ordinance that Palo Alto County had established consisted of a few sentences and was not specific enough for actual wind farms.

“We have had a couple meetings in the county and have received input and thoughts pertaining to a wind farm. The rough draft has also been sent to the wind energy companies for input also. So now we are trying to put together a wind ordinance that would fit Palo Alto County,” stated Dean Gunderson, Chairman of the Palo Alto Zoning Commission. “Tonight, we are trying to get ideas for the Palo Alto County from ordinances of other Iowa counties to begin to put together the ordinance for our county. We will also take comments from anyone. We want to keep them somewhat limited and to the subject we are on.”

Two main topics of discussion were field spraying and setbacks. Local aerial sprayers will not fly into a wind farm for safety reasons. This has raised concern for landowners who may not sign an easement contract. The other topic of setbacks also seems to be a major concern among landowners that may not sign a contract.

“A question I have is how does the wind company prevent disruption to electronic equipment?” Jay Clasing, landowner asked.

“It is my understanding that if it is satellite based the turbines do not affect signals. If it is through the air, such as antenna/rabbit ear reception, there can be disruption and to remedy this the company would buy the person a dish. I have’nt done a lot of research on this but will try and get more answers,” Jeff Jackson, Development Manager for RES Americas. “We have consultants that actually study where antennas are, where boosters stations are, and then they plot where the houses and turbines are located. They can actually provide a report that will show the impact of communication for each of these points.”

“Setback is something that every county has in an ordinance for wind energy. We would like some input and comments on what the landowners feel the setback should be from a residence,” Neary said. “Comments from Jay and the group and others in the county, they are looking for separations from property lines. The biggest reason is the aerial spraying of crops and being able to get to them.”

“Do we need to be concerned about the cities, like Emmetsburg, Aryshire, Graettinger, West Bend, and the rest? Do they have ordinances that are concerned with setbacks?” Mike Brown Zoning Commission member asked.

“I don’t think the towns have thought about it either. I’m sure they have something for radio towers that would apply to wind turbines,” Neary answered.

Discussion continued regarding other concerns of landowners. They wish to ensure that they will have the right and ability to manage their farming operation as they always have with little interruption.

Jackson stressed the desire of the wind companies to be able to work with residents and be able to come to an agreement that will benefit both parties. He stated that communication is key to the process benefiting all involved.