After a nearly two hour public hearing including concerns about wind turbines, Page County Board of Supervisors approved a related ordinance Tuesday, Oct. 29 should the 300 foot tall towers come to the county.
A portion of the hearing included Supervisor Chuck Morris reading an overview of the regulations which includes noise, setback and other factors all to promote the health, safety, comfort and general welfare of residents.
A few in the audience didn’t see it that way.
“We’re considering moving out,” said Ryan Yrkowski who said he moved to Page County from Nebraska a few years ago. “It’s 100 percent greed driven. They’re not green and it does not pay for itself.”
Yrkowski claimed the turbines, which generate electricity, can cause cancer, sleeping problems and dizzy feelings and “alters the beautiful horizon I see everyday. And it lasts generations.” He called them “industrial entities” which are subsidized by the federal government and difficult to dispose of when they have reached the end of their usefulness.
For the past several months, county officials have been informed of wind turbine companies researching possible tower sites. Wind turbines are being erected in northern Missouri. At the same time, officials have been doing their own research preparing the county, should agreements be made between wind turbine companies and landowners.
“An ordinance protects the roads. You make it to discourage turbines, or allow it with protections,” said Kim Behrens, from the Page County Auditor’s office. “Without an ordinance, it’s a free-for-all.”
The transportation and erection of wind turbines can cause damage to county roads knowing the extreme weight of the pieces of tower and construction equipment. After reviewing other counties’ ordinances, it’s common to include how roads must be repaired to normal conditions after construction.
“It’s a protective piece of work from our point of view,” Morris said.
Morris said knowing the financial troubles agriculture is in with low grain prices, a farmer may consider having a turbine installed on his property which will provide some income.
“A farmer may use this to help the bottom line,” he said.
“We can’t stop a landowner,” said Supervisor Chairman Alan Armstrong.
A representative was in the audience from Invenergy, a wind-turbine related company. She declined to explain details of contracts with landowners.
Those in the audience cautious of turbines fear what it may do to the county.
“Neighbors are fighting neighbors,” said Ashley Behrhorst. She said she has learned of other places in Iowa that have wind turbines and they have caused disputes between neighbors who have them on their property and those who don’t.
“Are you ready,” she rhetorically asked the supervisors. “I live out in the country for a reason. Do I want to hear a Learjet over my house 24 hours a day? We live with the consequences.”
The ordinance states the maximum sound level a turbine can make is 55 decibels measured from a non-participating resident. Page County Safety Coordinator Tom Nordhues said that is equivalent to noise in an office.
Those who apply to build a wind turbine in Page County must pay $250 and have complete details of the turbine, some certified by a licensed engineer. The application must fit all federal guidelines related to wind turbines. The county’s zoning administrator and board of supervisors must approve the applications.
Resident Gary Davison, who has spoken to supervisors before about wind turbines, questions the setback distances. That is the measurement from the center of the turbine to the center of the closest object or structure. The ordinance states 1.1 times the total height of the tower or 1,500 feet, whatever is greater. Some towers stand as much as 300 feet tall including the tip of the blade.
“I fear we will lose population,” Davison said.
Structures like residences, schools and churches must be 1. 1 times the height of the tower or 1,250 feet away from the tower, whichever is greater.
The ordinance stated the towers must have at least a 1 mile setback from the county’s parks.
Behrhorst and Yrkowski questioned why the ordinance has a greater distance for parks than residences.
Morris said he is aware of lease-option sites for turbines in Page County, but that doesn’t guarantee a wind turbine will be erected. Lease options follow the turbine regulations at the time the lease was written.
Page County Attorney Carl Sonksen, who was in attendance, said the county is committed to the ordinance it passes, but details can be amended.
“We are trying to do what’s best for Page County,” Morris said. “Doing this today, we are not committed to wind turbines. We need more to study.”
Morris made the motion to approve the ordinance and it was second by Jon Herzberg. The two and Armstrong voted in favor. The three also voted to waive the first and second readings of the ordinance.
“I don’t feel protected,” said Ellen Nothwehr.