January 18, 2022

County approves solar ordinance

After months of review and revision, Union County Board of Supervisors approved the county’s solar-power ordinance Monday.

The unanimous vote also included action to skip a third reading of the ordinance. Earlier this year, Alliant Energy proposed building a solar-power facility east of Creston. Construction is not expected until 2023.

Ron Dunphy asked about who is responsible for determining the condition of the land after the solar-power equipment has been removed. The ordinance includes for the land to be returned to its original state.

“Who inspects the property after the devices are removed. Who’s the judge after 30 years? Who makes that determination,” he asked.

“That’s a good question,” responded Supervisor Ron Riley. “My thought would be that would be the company and the landowner, at the time, would work and want it back this way. It’s between the landowner and the company at the time to put back the way they want it.”

Union County Attorney Shane O’Toole said the landowner has the right to take legal action on the company for failure to meet the expectations in the ordinance in regard to decommission of solar-power devices.

“I don’t know if a neighbor would have an opportunity,” he said about accusing the company for failing to meet the standards and creating a nuisance. “It’s a long time in the future. There can be all kinds of things. I’d hate to limit speculation what is and isn’t a nuisance is in the future because we really don’t know today.”

Dunphy said he would “detest” the idea to rely on a judge and attorneys to decide what his land will look like decades from now.

Riley said the ordinance states the landowner has the leverage to determine how the land will be restored.

“While no one wants to see a lawsuit, that is the ultimate remedy when it doesn’t work out between parties,” O’Toole said.

Supervisor Rick Friday said the decommissioning procedure protects the county.

“I think our position is it’s not really our business what you do with the contract. We want to make the sure the taxpayers don’t have to clean this up in 30 years. As far as your assets, you are going to have to protect them yourself,” he said.

Supervisors only made one wording change. Riley said the word fluids was changed to funds when explaining the decommissioning plan.

“It does not change the content,” he said about the ordinance.

Francine Ide asked about the details of a view shed for solar-power facilities near recreational areas noted in the ordinance. A viewshed, in this case, is a study assessing the impact a solar-power facility would have on those at a recreational area. The areas noted in the ordinance include Three Mile Lake, Twelve Mile Lake, Talmadge Hill, Mt. Pisgah and Green Valley State Park.

“It sounds like you would rely on Alliant to determine a viewshed and determine how far out they would do a viewshed,” she said. “I was wondering what your thoughts on specifying a distance that you would like Alliant to do a viewshed from the perimeter of the recreational area.”

O’Toole said other statutes are expected to determine the viewshed.

In other county news....

Supervisors will have its farm ground lease at auction at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 10, at Creston Livestock Auction. The winning bid will have the land with a one-year contract starting Feb. 28. Included in the property are about 20 acres of crop ground, 50 acres of pasture and 100 acres of timber.

Supervisors met with representatives from CARE and Heartland Management representatives about building repairs and the lease and management agreements.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.