The below letter will be mailed with additional materials to all Iowa County Supervisors no later than Feb 12, 2021. You can co-sign the letter by adding your name and contact information here: https://bit.ly/Co-Sign-IA-Co-Board-Ltr-202102 . Further explanation about current ordinance shortfalls can be found in this post; Interested persons are also encouraged to attend the ZOOM County Board meeting on February 16, 2021 and may speak, briefly, towards the start of the meeting. See info on Calendar
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Dear Iowa County Supervisor,
We are writing in response to the January 26th, Iowa County Zoning Committee discussion and action on the proposed revisions to the Iowa County Wind Energy System Siting Ordinance (the Ordinance). The Zoning Committee tabled further action on revising the 2014 Ordinance. This Ordinance is out of date and was not written to address larger wind facilities like the 600 MW project being proposed by Pattern, which threatens to make our rural farming community into an industrial setting. I am requesting that revisions to the Ordinance be pursued and that this issue be added to the agenda of the February 16, 2021 Iowa County Board Meeting for further discussion. It is important that the full County Board have an opportunity to understand the importance of revising the Ordinance, especially with the looming possibility of the Pattern proposal (see attached documentation on the project). Some of the salient issues with the County’s Ordinance is that:
- It does not contain any protections for the public on noise or shadow flicker, both of which are documented to cause significant health effects.
- It does not address signal interference or stray voltage issues.
- Many of the process requirements are missing for complaint resolution, public input opportunities and the ability to bill the wind developer for activities that the County may undertake related to a proposed or existing project.
We also request that Chairman John Meyers recuse himself from the discussion and all future actions involving the Ordinance because of his openly stated conflicts of interest involving wind system developers. (Meyers has openly stated that he works, on a “daily basis” directly with, or for, wind system developers.) The public deserves an unbiased decision on matters of such importance.
It is disturbing that the County does not see protection of the public as a primary responsibility. It is also disappointing that, after determining to limit inclusion of protections for the public, the Zoning Committee felt it was not important to bring these impactful findings to the attention of the entire board. If Pattern submits an application to the County, the existing Ordinance is beyond ill-equipped to deal with it, because it omits important tools the County can use: in billing developers; establishing a decommissioning fund; and protecting the public. The County may well find itself in debt after processing the proposed project, under the current Ordinance and associated resolution. Some facts about the State Code (PSC128) on Wind Energy Systems as they relate to the Ordinance:
- The public protections in State Code (PSC 128) must be incorporated into local ordinances for them to be enforceable. The PSC will not enforce these provisions (suggested in proposed revisions) to the County’s Ordinance.
- Choosing not to revise the Ordinance will not protect the county from being sued.The existing Ordinance without revision leaves the county at greater financial risk,due to lack of authority to charge wind developers for county reviews.The suggested revisions contain that authority.
- Even though the State Code does not allow the County to be more restrictive, it outlines a number of requirements that the County can provide to protect residents and avoid potential expenses. The suggested revisions contain these requirements. Examples of these requirements are standards for noise and shadow flicker (from PSC 128.14, PSC 128.15), a complaint process that actually gives the public some recourse (from PSC 128.40, PSC 128.41), language that helps the County to cover costs of review, etc. (from PSC 128.32 (5). 128.36 (2), suggestions for updating the resolution that defines specifics on what the County can charge the developer.
- As a legislative body, which the county is, the fact that many decisions made by the County can be contested should be nothing new. That an aggrieved party has the ability to appeal a County decision on Wind Systems to the PSC does not eliminate all County authority. The County does have a say on whether to incorporate and provide protections for county residents that are allowed in State Code.
- Refusing to update the County’s Ordinance does not limit liability to the county or its duty to protect the public interest. Without protections added to the Ordinance, residents that become physically ill from living in proximity to a wind turbine may be forced to sell their property at a significant loss, or worse have to abandon their property because they cannot sell it. There are real life examples of these occurrences.
- While landowners decide whether to sign a lease agreement, this does not eliminate the County’s duty to protect ALL landowners or eliminate the County’s authority to do so under the State Code. The county should consider their responsibility to protect landowners who choose not to participate in hosting wind turbines. Non-participating landowners are not the ones who are threatening their community with extreme changes, such as going from a rural character to an industrial setting or threatening their neighbor’s property values or land use decisions. Zoning requirements are established for the express purpose of moderating situations where a landowner’s personal choices about their property interfere with the rights of their neighbor’s. The Board should also consider that it is common for those who sign lease agreements to have second thoughts when they discover the many downsides to the agreement, not disclosed by savvy landsmen.
- The county cannot avoid liabilities that may result from developers siting wind facilities in the County. The County would have costs and their authority to recover those costs from wind developers is in the proposed revisions that the Zoning Committee decided to table! The county is placing risks on the public by refusing to include protections for the public in their Ordinance.
Uplands Wind would change the face of Iowa County and the lifestyle we currently have, we need the Ordinance revised now!
Thank you for your consideration of our concerns,