Iowa County Board of Supervisors rejects wind ordinance, will now rewrite draft

Mary Miller (at podium) speaks to the Iowa County Board of Supervisors at the East Annex...
Mary Miller (at podium) speaks to the Iowa County Board of Supervisors at the East Annex Building in Marengo on Friday, August 23, 2019. More than 40 people spoke at the meeting discussing a potential wind ordinance in the county. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Aug. 23, 2019 at 3:54 PM CDT
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The Iowa County Board of Supervisors voted down a new ordinance that would regulate wind energy. This comes after months of debate over constructing wind turbines in the county.

The first reading of the ordinance failed Friday morning after three supervisors voted no, one voted in favor, and the chairman of the board continued to abstain his vote due to a conflict of interest.

Nearly 40 people spoke to the supervisors during the public hearing prior to the vote, and people both in favor of wind turbines and against them wanted to see the drafted ordinance thrown out and reconsidered.

In a small conference room across the street from the Iowa County Courthouse, there was a standing-room-only crowd for the Iowa County Board of Supervisors meeting. For more than an hour, supervisors heard from people giving their thoughts on the potential ordinance that would define the limits of wind farming in the county.

"I'm not against farmers farming and doing their business, but I am definitely not for the windmill project," said Rick Rodgers, an Iowa County resident.

"My assessment after reading the information on your website is that all of the information is about maximizing profits from wind turbines," said Paula Watkins of Iowa County. "Nothing is about protecting the people and wildlife from the negative effects of wind turbines."

Iowa County's Supervisors have already entered an agreement for more than 70 turbines- the ordinance that was drafted, as well as any future ordinance that could go into effect, would not apply to that project. It would, however, apply to an expansion of wind turbines in the county.

Even those in favor of the potential increase wanted to see the ordinance changed.

"This ordinance will allow those that already have windmills placed to proceed forward, but leaves the rest of us and possibly those who already have windmills, out of the future expansion because of the extended setbacks proposed in the ordinance," said Dale Faas of Iowa County.

One of the reasons it could impact expansion is the restrictions on how far away turbines have to be from local roads, rivers, and non-participating homes, among other locations.

After being voted down, the board will now have to rewrite those regulations. Representatives from MidAmerican and Invenergy offered a warning if the ordinance proves restrictive, as representatives from both organizations spoke individually near the end of the public hearing.

"The 2,000-foot setback on the non-participating [residents], would really hinder future development in this county," said Mark Zaccone, a contractor with Invenergy. Zaccone was interrupted after this comment due to an overwhelming number of people clapping. "I don't know if that was the intent of that, but I wish you'd consider re-looking at that."

"An example is Adair County, they were pretty open about this when they implemented a 2,000-foot setback, which is the greatest in Iowa that I'm aware of," said Adam Jablonski with MidAmerican Energy. "They ultimately said it was like a moratorium until they got a comprehensive amendment in place."

Members of the county's board of supervisors said it is uncertain how fast they can create another draft to have another public hearing and vote on. It could be as soon as Friday, August 30, but that is still uncertain.