Editor's Note: This is a continuation of the story titled "Tempers Flare at Public Hearing on Wind Turbine Application" that ran in the Reporter on Oct.10.
Many of the arguments both for and against the Palo Alto Wind Project have been made before. But for the sake of argument let's take another look at both sides of the pendulum.
As a review, proposed is a 170 turbine project producing 340 MW (megawatts) of power; enough to power approximately 130,000 single family homes. Not only will it provide over $3,000,000 in tax revenue to our county by its seventh year, provide approximately 200 construction jobs to workers that will pay part of their paychecks into local businesses as well as creating 10 to 15 permanent jobs.
"Increased revenue to the landowners in a depressed farm economy will assist in keeping the local family farms viable in a tough farming economy," Stewart Ohrtman, landowner began. "All the landowners have voluntarily signed up for this project. The county's population has declined significantly over the last 50 years. This project projected tax liability will greatly assist this county in continuing to maintain its systems during a significant decline in the county tax base."
The landowners involved are very supportive of this project," Ohrtman continued. "The application submitted meets all of the county rules. Energy sources other than fossil fuels such as coal are greatly needed throughout our county. Landowners in Iowa are fortunate to have this renewable fuel for renewable energy wind."
Area resident Jana Butler, who lives in Section 26 of Independence Township with her husband Michael, told the Supervisors "We have come to speak tonight, although we feel our comments will fall on deaf ears and uncaring hearts. The last time I spoke, I stated that we have poured everything into our home. That's our home. That's where our family gathers and where our grandchildren come to play." She continued saying that the turbines will destroy their sense of home and greatly reduce the value of their acreage. She went on to say that money is the reason landowners and the Supervisors are even considering letting these monstrosities come into our county.
Michael MaRous is the president and owner of MaRous and Company, a real estate assessment company from Chicago, IL. made the argument that there has been no market evidence that a property loses value due to its proximity stating that property values fluctuate with current market values of similar houses.
While explaining real estate assessments and how they are calculated he was interrupted by those in attendance exclaiming that his two minutes were up with others stating the last speaker had two minutes.
"When he's asked to stop, he must stop," Tom Stillman, landowner and resident stated. "He asked me to stop; I finished with one last quote. You can have one quote."
"Tom, you took four minutes," Palo Alto County Attorney?Peter Hart stated.
"Well, you didn't stop me," Stillman said. "When you did, I got one last thing in. You can have one last quote."
"I will finish based on the study I've done where projects similar to this one, there is no economic negative impact on property values," MaRous stated. "In fact, there has been a positive effect on property values."
"I am not here to put you down," Lois Stillman, landowner and resident began. "I am here because I do not want any harm to come to anyone. I have found that this whole process has been harmful to relationships and to our soil"
She had three containers of different soil types to show those in attendance, showing the different soil types within the area. She made the point that putting these heavy cement bases and turbines will have adverse effects on the soil. Lois also requested that there be testing done in hearing before to be responsible to know for a fact if there are any emissions from turbines currently within the area that are harmful. She went on to request that a hold be put on this project until further investigation into what harm is being done or could potentially be done by wind turbines.
There were a few absentee landowners at the meeting, who wanted to make the point that this was not a decision that was taken lightly and that tenants of some landowners were involved in the decision making process. Each absentee landowner encouraged the Board of Supervisors to vote yes for this project. Of those supporting this project, Dennis Mendsager, Betty Stangl, Pete Hamilton and Jim Season, were just a few that attended this public hearing.
Mike Hankard, Hearing Specialist, likened the jet engine comparison to the fear factor.
Dr. Frank Veltri, a local resident and retired physician, stated, "As many of you know I am a retired family practice doctor and am currently on the Board of Health as well. I have reviewed some of the arguments scientifically both pros and cons and I have come to the conclusion that there is no, in my mind, I don't believe that there is significant health risks involve with the wind turbine project as presented."
Veltri went on to thank the Supervisors for their patience and time in attempting to come to a consensus on this issue and encouraged the Supervisors to proceed with this project.
"As a Supervisor you are a leader and one of the roles of a leader is to help facilitate change," Bob Sweeney landowner began. "In this process you must gather the facts, process the information and facilitate change while maintaining the status quo. Change is difficult. As a landlord, my family gathered facts, processed information and decided what we would do with that information.
"I live in Cass County and there are 172 wind turbines in this county. The wind farms are bigger because they extend into surrounding counties. I never heard any of the high level of emotions that I have heard tonight."
Sweeney went on to describe some of the information that his family gathered and then asked the Supervisors to facilitate change by voting yes to the project.
County resident Heather Ford reminded everyone that when the need is there the communities of Palo Alto County pulls together, but emotions need to be taken out.
"Everyone is talking about due diligence and facts and that is what I am here to talk about," Bertha Mathis, resident said. "First, the site plan. There are a lot of people who have signed up that don't have any turbines on their property so let's move some of them. The Supervisors in their ordinance state 'The Board of Supervisors shall vote to approve with or without conditions the site plan review and approval permit shall not be granted by the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors until all of the procedures set forth in the ordinance have been fulfilled."
Mathis went on to point out that there has been no response from several agencies that are listed in the ordinance and advised the Supervisors to follow their own ordinance and requested a vote of no on this project.
The Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors listened to more comments from residents and landowners before making comments.
Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors Chairman Keith Wirtz asked if any of the Supervisors would like to say anything at this time.
"A lot of passion in the room and that is really appreciated," Supervisor Craig Merrill said. "The Board of Supervisors, since this project started, has tried to include the community and held meetings so people could express their views and move forward with the process. Invenergy submitted their site plan on Sept. 1. We had 60 days from that time to hold a public meeting and that is what we are doing tonight. We had an informational meeting two weeks ago, an extra meeting, to try and get people informed on what was going on. From today, we have 30 days to vote approval of the site plan or not."
Merrill noted that the process has generally been to wait two week before voting and so the earliest the vote would be taken is October 17; however, it could possibly be longer.