May 29, 2024

Supervisors seek more information in lieu of advancing latest ordinance

The process to form some sort of ordinance that puts parameters on the building of large commercial strucutures in Adair County reached another point of pause at the Wednesday, May 8 board of supervisors meeting.

On a 3-2 vote, the supervisors decided to not move forward with a third reading or adoption of any version of the ordinance being considered. They will instead turn to legal counsel for more concrete answers before moving forward.

The motion from Matt Wedemeyer, seconded by Nathan Baier, was to move forward with a third hearing, and it failed with Jodie Hoadley, Jerry Walker and John Twombly voting nay, and Baier and Wedemeyer voting aye.

The motion and vote came following a public comment time, which was the second hearing on the matter. The first was held during the April 24 meeting.

The public speaks

The hearing lasted almost 20 minutes with those in attendance speaking for and against the proposed ordinance.

Third and fourth drafts of the ordinance, which were altered versions of what was previously made available, were on hand for the public at the meeting to review.

Landowner and farmer Dan Dreher, whose family land is near to a data center proposed by the company Applied Digital, said he doesn’t want to be misunderstood. He said he isn’t against growth but he doesn’t want any one resident to have a building as large as what could be built very near to their residence or farm. He said he believes with due diligence made, growth in the county can happen and landowner rights can be maintained at the same time.

Eugene Hardisty of Greenfield said he’s leery of regulations in general. He said there are enough regulations in the world and asked the supervisors if it’s really a good idea to throw on more.

Applied Digital representative Nick Phillips, who attended the meeting over the phone, said that he had several concerns with the versions of an ordinance he reviewed. He said it’s OK to not rush. He said that if the county gives Applied Digital a few months, they may have more detailed information to share on what they’re wanting to build.

Midwest Partnership Economic Development Executive Director Brenda Dudley and board member Scott Tonderum, who also manages Greenfield Municipal Utilities and is on the Greenfield Development Corporation Board, were each at the meeting.

Dudley said she wants growth and industry for Adair County. While data centers can sometimes be perceived as eyesores, some she has seen are more attractive because of landscaping efforts that are made.

Tonderum said he wants the supervisors to consider whether or not they’re handcuffing future growth. He said there may be no need to rush an ordinance through.

Adair Mayor Joanne Byars attended via phone call and said the supervisors have a tough balance to maintain. She said it may not be best to rush into passing an ordinance and officials should check into the ordinance more before moving on with it.

The supervisors discuss

Many of the supervisors shared their thoughts after the public finished speaking.

Wedemeyer said he thought the first hearing was productive and a potential ordinance could be something used longer term as a tool when other things come up in the future. He said he thought a well-crafted ordinance would help the county be more proactive rather than reactionary.

Baier said he felt there’s a happy medium that can potentially take place. He suggested his own idea for setbacks that were different from what was on the draft given in the meeting.

Twombly, who attended the meeting via phone call, said he isn’t for the ordinance, but the supervisors had the option to adjust the ordinance as many times as needed before it is approved.

Hoadley said she disagreed with those who said that data centers they’ve seen aren’t eyesores. She said she wasn’t confident in how the ordinance currently reads and thought additional legal counsel was needed.

Wedemeyer said that even if it was passed today, an ordinance would need immediate legal review to make sure it will stand up in court.

Walker said that in his opinion, whatever is passed needs to be able to stand up in court.

Next steps

Moving forward, the supervisors plan to reach out to legal counsel from the firm Ahlers and Cooney. They hope lawyers will be able to direct them on the best steps to follow moving foward. One idea during the meeting was having them also review the county’s past-implemented wind turbine and solar ordinances and combine all of these topics into one ordinance to propose.

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.