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The Ringgold County Board of Supervisors held the third and final public hearing for proposed solar and wind turbine ordinances during their regular meeting on Monday, July 24. There were roughly 20 people who attended the first public hearing and less than 35 people total who came to the hearings to air their concerns.
While few, there have been between 5-10 residents who have publicly expressed they thought it was up to the landowner to allow wind turbines on private land. They are concerned that the set back distance is too restrictive.
Kelly Main stated that he “does not agree with the half-mile set back as that makes it near impossible for wind turbines to be constructed in the county.”
Mike Kemery stated he “does not understand the difference between allowing a hog barn on a property and placing such strict restrictions on wind turbines.”
Tim Creveling stated he “would like to see setbacks of 400’ from a residence and 750’ from the road.”
Supervisor Steve Knapp was quick to point out that the ordinance does provide an avenue for land owners who would like a different set back distance or arrangement. “If your neighbors will sign off on it, you can get a waiver to put a turbine in another location.” As stated in the ordinance, “An affected property owner may waive this setback requirement by executing a written waiver or agreement.”
The majority of feedback received from members of the public have stated they are not in favor of wind turbine development in Ringgold County. Collectively, the supervisors have talked with nearly 100 residents or land owners. Supervisor Colby Holmes stated “I talked to roughly 40-50 people at the fair alone.” Most land owners have expressed the desire to keep the rural landscape undisturbed.
Ann Werner stated, “we have a beautiful county,” and she does not want “to deface it.” She encouraged the supervisors to “look at the future and do not rush the process. Maintain the recommended setbacks and see what happens.”
Landi Livingston with Hoover Angus Farms stated that “we are one of the few places left.” Livingston also shared that she has been talking with other small Angus Breeders that are looking at relocating their operations to Ringgold County, “they are looking to come to Ringgold County because it is a peaceful, beautiful place, like what they remember their family farms being when they grew up.”
Jim Goins stated that Farm Bureau reached out to their membership to get an idea of support. At a recent Farm Bureau meeting, they learned “80 percent of members were against wind turbines.” Goins also stated “there were only about four people (or 20%) that were in favor of them.”
Much of the public discussion around wind turbines focused on the potential economic benefits for land owners and the county. Mike Kemery asked whether the Board had researched the amount of revenue the towers would bring to the county budget.
The board stated they have investigated those figures. “Taylor County is projected to bring in roughly $3 million pending completion of all wind farms,” Holmes stated.
Kelly Main urged supervisors to consider potential revenue stating, “You need to give some serious thought to the tax revenue, that’s pretty huge.”
Tim Creveling, noted that “if a young farmer needs the revenue from a wind turbine to keep their operation going, it is their land, and they should be able to construct what they choose.”
Melinda England noted “the revenue is nice, obviously, but the State of Iowa could decide to make wind turbines tax exempt at any time and then we would no longer have that revenue.”
Supervisor Steve Knapp stated. “Fiscally, we’re doing the wrong thing for our county. But public opinion tells us that most people don’t like them.”
Knapp also stated “You can be mad at the three of us, I can live with that. I don’t want neighbors hating each other. We have a pretty tight knit community and I don’t want to scar that.”
Kendra Martin shared that sentiment, stating, “The strength of small towns is their community.” Martin also stated “It’s always easier to ease an ordinance back than to make it stronger later on.”
There was little to no discussion or feedback on the solar ordinance at any of the three public hearings.
After concluding the public hearings, the supervisors then approved the wind turbine ordinance and solar ordinance as presented.
The purpose of the ordinances is to establish minimum requirements and regulation of siting, construction, operation and decommissioning of commercial energy systems.
They plan to rescind the temporary moratorium at the next Board of Supervisors meeting Monday, July, 31. More information about the new ordinances can be found on the Ringgold County website at: www.ringgoldcounty.iowa.gov/departments/supervisors/county_ordinances.php