May 29, 2024

Supervisors pass first reading of turbine revisions

Union County Board of Supervisors approved the first reading Monday to revisions to the county’s wind turbine ordinance in front of an audience of about 24 people held in the courthouse courtroom.

The additions were the first changes to the ordinance since the county’s initial 34 turbines were installed in 2020.

Supervisors approved a suspension of all new wind turbine projects in March 2023. The suspension was influenced by reports of wind turbine companies soliciting landowners in late 2022 in southern portions of the county to expand the inventory. The suspension was continued late last year to July.

A comment from the audience was from Blythe Waltersdorf who said she works in health care. She said helicopters that act as ambulances can “choose not to come to your county base on wind turbine presence.” She added the helicopters will also consider not coming because of threatening storms. “They can choose to say ‘No we can’t come to your county.’ That will really effect the health care ability of our county.”

Supervisors did not respond to the comment.

Other proposed additions to the ordinance include aircraft lighting detections systems. New turbines must have a sensor-based system that detect aircraft as it approaches a turbine. The lights on the turbine are activated until the aircraft has safely passed.

The lighting system must also have means of tailoring the intensity level of lights according to surrounding visibility.

Another proposal is for an archaeological survey to be done in a 1 mile radius of the new tower’s proposed site and be recorded with the state’s archaeologist. The survey will be funded by the turbine permit applicant.

Another addition includes adding certain public areas related to setback distances. Those areas include the Paul and Becky Kelly Family Natural Wilderness Area, Thayer Lake and the Groesebeck Wildlife Area.

In a related issue, the turbine must have a setback distance no less than .62 miles or seven times of the total height of the tower, whichever is greater from the adjoining property owner’s property line. An affected property owner may waive the setback distance with an agreement .

If the owner of the turbine is no longer operating it and not paying property taxes, the landowner shall be responsible for payment of property taxes on the turbine in question.

Supervisors approved scheduling the second reading 9:10 a.m. during their scheduled Monday, May 20 meeting.

“We want to say thank you. You guys have been fantastic,” said Francine Ide, who has contributed to supervisor meetings regarding turbines and the ordinance. “You guys have put in a lot of work and research and we appreciate that.”

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.