WEST UNION — Wind turbines were once again the topic of discussion at the Fayette County Supervisors meeting on Monday, June 10.
Kevin Lehs, Hawkeye wind farm project manager, brought concerns he has for a new wind-energy project being proposed in Hawkeye by NextEra Energy Resources of Juno, Florida. He also presented these concerns to the Fayette County Planning and Zoning Commission.
While the specific details of the proposal haven’t been made publicly available at this time, the company has sent contracts to potential landowners for easements on their property.
“Fayette County has verbiage that isn’t very specific, which will be exploited by companies like NextEra Energy,” Lehs said. “I think there are about a half-dozen areas that need to be shored up in the ordinance. Let’s get these shored up and change the ordinance so there is no gray area.”
What concerns Lehs is that these easement contracts are for a landowner’s entire farm, which means the company can put wind turbines wherever they want on the person’s property, as long as they are still in compliance with the current ordinance.
“To take a project that has a life cycle of 50 years and reach out beyond that for another 40 years to do whatever they want to do [is what these contracts are],” explained Lehs. “There is so much stuff that could change in 50 years, what is it going to do in 90 years? This company is going to make a lot of money. It isn’t going to necessarily share the money with the landowners because [the landowners] are going to be locked into this paltry amount of money to allow this company to do whatever it wants with their farm. I can hardly believe people are signing up for it, but they are.
“There are several that have signed already, and they are larger tracts of land. These people are signing blank documents giving this company the farm for 90 years.”
Lehs also added that the contract doesn’t include a minimum amount of land that the company can disturb to put up these turbines.
He would like to see the supervisors improve the wind-turbine ordinance that it updated two years ago to be more specific to protect county citizens.
NextEra Energy has shown interest in installing solar, as well, so Lehs suggested that the county come up with a solar ordinance, which it currently doesn’t have, to protect itself. The contracts that are being presented to the landowners does include language for solar.
“[NextEra Energy] is queued in for 250-megawatts of solar, which is 900 acres, which is why you need to create a solar ordinance,” Lehs noted.
Catherine Miller, Fayette County planning and development administrator, gave the supervisors a sample solar ordinance from another Iowa county.
The supervisors noted that they were interested in updating the wind-turbine ordinance, as well as creating a solar ordinance. Since Lehs wasn’t on the agenda, no action could be taken at the meeting, but the supervisors did discuss putting together a committee to explore these two issues. They also discussed, who they felt they should ask to serve on this committee.
In other news, the supervisors approved three zoning requests. The first request came from Scenic View Mennonite Church for a waiver to the subdivision ordinance to split approximately 2.5 acres of land from a 33.01-acre parcel to build a church. The parcel is located in 190th Street in rural Fayette.
The second request came from Charles and Brenda Downs of Fayette to split approximately 5.69 acres of land from a 23.96-acre parcel at 10901 Ivy Road. They are splitting a building from the existing acreage so that they can sell the acreage while also keeping the building.
The final request came from Randy Nelson to split approximately 3.5 acres from a 72.64-acre parcel in Oran Township. Nelson plans to build a new home on the 3.5- acre parcel in three to five years.
The supervisors also approved a new contract with Solutions for $57,454 for IT support, 2-1. Solutions also hosts all the county’s accounting software, among other duties the contract covers. County Board Chairwoman Janell Bradley was the lone dissenting vote, because she wasn’t satisfied with the customer support she has received from the company on certain matters.
Finally, the supervisors approved a new county seal that will go on official ballots. It is pretty much the same as the old seal, except for a slight change at the bottom where it will now read 33FCIATR.
The old county seal will still be recognized and used by the county; this one will only go on official ballots. This was done per Iowa Code.