April 17, 2024

LETTER: Wind turbine is a nuisance

Matt Olive


I attended the board of supervisors meeting on Nov. 27. The meeting was short. The agenda topics of secondary roads updates, dept. head reports and items for next agenda were covered. The public comment privilege is still suspended. The update from County Engineer/Zoning Administrator Charles Bechtold of the upcoming zoning public meeting on Monday, Dec. 11 at 5:00 p.m. at Corning Community Building reminded me of what residents of Adams County have at stake in the future.

I think a person could count on one hand the number of Adams County rural residents who would allow a large corporation to build a 600-foot industrial wind turbine on their land, if the only benefit accrued to them, were to promote renewable energy and provide additional tax revenue to the county’s coffers. And that hand would quickly become fingerless, if those few rural residents were required to build their first wind turbine, 1.1 times the height of that turbine, from the residence where they actually live. As non-participants, this is what we’re expected to do relative to our property lines. What if I want to build a house somewhere else on my property, or want to sell 10 or 20 acres to a family member, friend, or stranger to build a new house. My property has been captured. My land use options have been limited by an inadequate setback.

Additionally, I think the proposed 1,500-foot setback from a non-participant’s residence is unfair. As participants sign up parcels for turbines, I’m noticing how few are located on parcels where the participant actually lives. Many of the participants live outside the county or across the county. Again, if participants were required to build their first turbine 1,500 feet from the residence where they actual live, I think the wind company would be hard-pressed to find more than five or 10 participants. But again, as non-participants, this is what is expected of us.

My point is that a 600-foot industrial wind turbine is a nuisance, period. A person who must endure this 30 to 50 year (24/7) nuisance should be fairly compensated. The wind company must be offering participants sufficient compensation for them to tolerate this nuisance. Who’s not receiving compensation for this nuisance? The vast majority of rural residents and land owners who don’t want their property to become part of a county-wide industrial park. We are called non-participants. This term is misleading because having one’s rural residence de-valued 20 to 40% if you live less than 1 mile from a wind turbine, as studies are increasingly proving, doesn’t fit the definition of a non-participant. We are forced to participate in the negative effects of this nuisance.

Confluence, a landscaping architectural planning and design company, has recently been hired by the board of supervisors to update the portion of our current comprehensive plan that deals with industrial scatter. I know that both the Southwest Iowa Council of Governments (SICOG) and Confluence were approached about updating the entirety of our 1966 Comprehensive Plan. I understood that SICOG would do it for significantly less than Confluence. Then the board of supervisors chose not to update the entirety of the plan. But they have chosen to update/fix the portion dealing with industrial scatter. They hired Confluence to do this. Why wasn’t SICOG hired to perform this service? Why didn’t the board of supervisors ask both SICOG and Confluence to submit bids before choosing which to contract with?

SICOG is a government agency and Confluence is a business corporation. SICOG has experience creating and updating comprehensive plans. County comprehensive plans require strong input from county residents. They should include well-advertised public meetings, arrange meeting times and spaces that encourage the largest turn-out, organize a diverse steering committee who create good survey questions and solicit residents’ preferences and ideas for future public policy.

I feel that SICOG would have done a better job in this regard because since they are a government agency. Their charter would require them to be diligent in soliciting full participation from county residents in the process and the surveys. They would have a greater awareness of their responsibility toward the entirety of residents rather than specifically to the board of supervisors as I feel Confluence might be. Perhaps, I’ll be pleasantly surprised by Confluence’s commitment to democracy.

Meanwhile, I’ve been very impressed by our surrounding counties, Union, Ringgold, Taylor and Montgomery. They’ve taken very seriously the division that these industrial wind turbines create and are taking serious steps to mitigate the divisions that wind projects cause.