CLINTON — DeWitt County Board chairman David Newberg contacted media Friday to report the Mar. 18 special board meeting has been canceled until further notice. The meeting was scheduled to consider the Tradewind Energy special use permit.
Newberg said the loss of the venue where the meeting would take place was the reason for the cancellation.
Clinton High School was set to host the meeting, but school officials are currently restricting public gatherings in school facilities because of the spread of the COVID 19 virus.
Because of the restriction, the Clinton Chamber of Commerce also has postponed its annual Business Expo most likely until early May. The expo was set for next week in the high school gymnasium.
The county board’s land use committee Monday began a discussion about conditions placed on Tradewind Energy’s special use permit (SUP) application. The committee, however, ultimately concluded the full board meeting was a more appropriate venue for the conversation.
“I think everybody had a chance to read the six standards,” committee chairman Terry Ferguson said.
Ferguson drew the members’ attention to the conditions requested by the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), including a request for a letter of intent from Tradewind to engage curtailment of turbines during periods of severe storms and an agreement governing the aircraft warning lighting system.
The ZBA forwarded the Tradewind SUP application to the county board with a recommendation to not approve the application. The board would have voted on the matter on Mar. 18.
Ferguson said he was informed that the National Weather Service no longer accepts letters of intent but requires binding agreements between entities.
“The Zoning Board of Appeals had requested that a letter of intent for this curtailment plan should be included with the special use permit (application), and I guess that’s kind of my evaluation also,” Ferguson said. “But, I, personally; I don’t know that there is any way to bind anybody to this.”
Ferguson said that, possibly, there should be some financial remedy were Tradewind to fail to curtail turbines during severe weather.
“Isn’t this something we should be doing at the full board,” asked committee member Melonie Tilley. “We are going into a discussion that the full board is not going to hear.”
Committee member Camille Redman agreed with Tilley, although Redman and Tilley have been on opposite sides of the wind farm debate.
“I think that anything that comes to the full board that deals with a special use permit, we have the right to talk about it,” he said. “And, when it comes time for the full board, we’ll do it again.”
Ferguson was a key vote against Tradewind’s first special use application last spring. Tilley also voted to not approve the application in 2019.
“That I know of, we’ve never discussed any other special use permit,” Tilley said.
“I realize that,” Ferguson responded. “I just personally feel this it is a big enough deal that we need to review it.”
Ferguson said committee members had been able to review condition other counties placed on proposed wind energy projects. He said board members needed to be ready to “have a serious discussion” about the proposed conditions to Tradewind’s application.
“There probably hasn’t been any of those neighboring wind farms that have been approved that haven’t had a least a couple dozen meaningful conditions,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said he had hoped the county’s wind ordinance would be reviewed for possible clarifications on some points.
“I find it interesting that; it’s contentious about whether the decommissioning plan should be part of the special use permit,” he said.
Ferguson said, however, he would go with the consensus of committee members and wait to raise points until the full board meets.
“But, please take it home, study it,” he said.
“It’s just a few more pages to read,” Redman said.
Ferguson asked committee members to keep in mind conditions imposed on wind energy projects by other counties.