WATERLOO — A group of rural Black Hawk County residents is pushing for more zoning restrictions on industrial wind energy turbines.
Members of Cedar Valley Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy asked the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to schedule a public work session or place their request on a future meeting agenda for debate.
“We believe the ordinance in Black Hawk County should be reviewed and updated based on changes we see in wind energy generation systems we see in the United States and how those things can impact Black Hawk County,” said Patrick Dillon, an attorney hired by the residents.
“We specifically want to build a more robust ordinance that can balance the needs of landowners who want to take advantage of wind power generation with those that are going to live in the area where that power is generated,” he added.
Cedar Valley Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy was formed by residents living south Waterloo where DeSoto-based RPM Access is working on plans to develop a 70 megawatt wind farm with an estimated 35 turbines.
RPM Access is expected to file its zoning applications later this year, which would prompt hearings before the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of Adjustment.
But many property owners in the project vicinity believe the current county requirements for wind turbines are inadequate to protect them from harm and lost property values. They’ve voiced frustration about their inability to have input in the project or the zoning ordinance to date.
Wayne McGarvey asked the supervisors to consider more zoning rules, including a lower sound threshold from the turbines and requiring farther distances from property lines.
“I don’t think our ordinance with a 60 decibel sound limit and no word of a setback from an occupied residence protects my health and well-being,” McGarvey said. “In effect, they have trespass rights on my property with ice throw, blade throw, whatever. That isn’t right.”
Resident Greg Cory joined those calling for county government leaders to start the discussion now.
“I’m smack dab in the middle of where this proposed wind farm is going to go,” Cory said. “… This is affecting your neighbors quite drastically. Please put us on your agenda.”
Cory said real estate studies show property values are lower near wind turbines, noting one of his neighbors just saw the sale of her acreage fall through when the buyer learned of RPM Access’s plans.
“We’re asking for a property value guarantee as one of the items to be added to the Black Hawk County wind ordinance,” he said. “A property value guarantee should be required by a developer.”
Resident Rusty Bowman was unhappy only property owners planning to allow a turbine on their land have been involved in the discussion with RPM Access.
“If they’re moving into our neighborhood we need to be involved,” Bowman said. “I think it should be more transparent.”
The Board of Supervisors has been reluctant to date to schedule a public meeting on the zoning ordinance. Dillon had requested a moratorium on wind turbine projects and asked for a work session on the zoning ordinance in a June 16 letter to the board.
“If we’re going to have a work session or an agenda item we need something specific to discuss,” said board chairman Frank Magsamen. “We need to sit down with (county zoning staff) and do a review again to get some feedback before we even discuss having an agenda item or a work session.”
Meanwhile, Magsamen said he would encourage RPM Access officials to hold informational meetings with all residents living near the project area.