The fate of the three wind turbines located just east of the Flint Hills ethanol plant at Fairbank will be appealed once more, this time before the Fayette County Board of Adjustment when it convenes at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 12.
Dante Wind 6, L.L.C., Galileo Wind 1 L.L.C., Venus Wind 4 L.L.C., Mason Wind L.L.C. Optimum Renewables L.L.C., collectively known as Optimum Renewables L.L.C., will meet with the Board of Adjustment regarding permits for the three turbines.
“We have been to court four times over this,” said John W. Woods, Fairbank businessman, who is among the plaintiffs in the case against the turbines. “The appellate court ruled the permits issued for their construction were illegal and they would be required to stop operating and take them down. They (the defendants) appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court wouldn’t even hear the case, siding with the ruling from the appellate court that the turbines were illegal and needed to come down. I don’t know why we have to keep going through this.”
Woods and other businessmen, along with the city of Fairbank, and several residents, are concerned the turbines are disrupting the use and enjoyment of their properties and will diminish the land values in and around the city.
Residents in the vicinity of the turbines are not happy that there seems to be another twist in the case they thought had been settled.
Kristen Kaufman lives on Unicorn Road east of Fairbank on a farm owned by her family. At least one of the three turbines is less than a half-mile from her driveway and farmhouse.
“The landscape is ruined. It’s not peaceful like country life should be,” Kaufman said in an interview Friday. “I have to live with hearing the noise of those turbine blades every night.”
Kaufman said the blades create a whooshing or swooping kind of sound that never stops. When she is lying in bed trying to sleep, the swooping sounds like a truck approaching that never quite passes the house. She said it’s like anticipating traffic to come down the road but it never does, and it’s very disruptive.
“When it gets windy the whooshing noise is louder. I know if I was looking for a house, I wouldn’t want to buy property near the turbines. I think this could hurt the future growth of Fairbank,” she said.
Joyce Kerns, another resident within earshot and sight of the wind turbines, has spoken up at past meetings on the subject and kept extensive records of all the letters, court actions and rulings to date.
“The Board of Adjustment has twice told them no, but they said they don’t need the board’s approval. There has been a bullying atmosphere around this whole deal,” Kerns said.
Kerns also hears the whooshing noise constantly and says her wooded acreage does little to buffer the sound. The northern-most turbine is very close to her property line; closer, she claims, than the 492-foot “fall allowance” necessary for the height of the tower.
“I also have a spring-fed creek on the property and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines are against building turbines near wetlands,” Kerns said, pointing to a thick file of research she has compiled. “This is my homeland and they are in violation. I feel invaded upon.”
Kerns said the argument from the turbine company has been that they are just guidelines, not laws. Kerns argues that the guidelines are based on years of studies. She said the regulations need to be clearer and updated to avoid the ambiguity that exists in interpretation.
“There are just so many ways that those turbines are wrong for their locations — too close to the highway, to houses, to property lines. The last ruling from the Supreme Court in May confirmed the appellate court’s ruling that the turbines have to come down,” she said. “This is beyond frustrating.”
Kaufman echoed Kerns’ sentiments.
“I’m worried about us as citizens, as well as the wildlife and livestock. If they’ve been deemed illegal, why do we have to keep fighting this?” she said.