“I want to make this a determination of the committee about the questions we need to ask the state’s attorney.”
county land use chairman
CLINTON — The county board’s land use chairman Terry Ferguson tried to initiate conversation during Monday’s committee meeting about aspects of the county’s wind energy ordinance. Ultimately, though, the committee concluded the topic needed to originate from the state’s attorney’s office.
Ferguson’s was the pivotal vote earlier this month that decided the fate of a special use permit that would have allowed Tradewind Energy to begin erecting wind turbines in the northern part of the county.
Ferguson’s vote against the permit application prevented the majority needed for passage, denying Tradewind’s application. Ferguson cited the project’s possible negative effects on weather radar and property values in explaining his vote.
During Monday’s land use committee meeting, Ferguson said he sought clarification in portions of the wind ordinance he felt were vague.
“I felt we needed to have some clarification on our ordinance, not to necessarily make any changes, but look at the timings of some of the things,” Ferguson told committee members.
Ferguson said he felt that some requirements of the ordinance lacked sufficient explanation.
“There seemed to be some misunderstanding or miscommunication about the decommissioning plan,” he said.
In looking at the portion of the ordinance about site plans, Ferguson said the language includes coverage about required easements.
“I don’t believe all of those were included in the previous application,” Ferguson said in reference to the Tradewind project. “It had the utilities easement listed, but it didn’t show any of the drainage easements.”
“But, we can’t do anything about this,” said committee member Melonie Tilley.
“I’m not looking to make any changes, I’m looking to state clarifications that need to be included in the application,” Ferguson responded.
Ferguson said the ordinance also did not address the locations of wind tower junction boxes.
“The junction boxes should be close to the roads and not out in the middle of the fields where guys are having to farm around them.”
“Are you saying you think these are things we overlooked,” Tilley asked.
“I think there are things where there is a statement of probably interpretation,” Ferguson said.
A method for logging and investigating complaints about the project also was an item Ferguson felt was vague.
“It (the ordinance) goes on about the process, but it doesn’t say if that’s supposed to be developed with the special use permit application or if it’s supposed to be done with the building permit.”
“I think we should have clarification on that,” Ferguson told committee members.
County board administrative assistant Dee Rentmeister pointed out, however, that a complaint process should exist “regardless of whether a special use permit has been applied for.”
Ferguson agreed, “but this is specific to the wind ordinance, not just any special use permit.”
He said the Tradewind application referred to some kind of complaint process but “it was done with zero coordination with the county.”
“But, why wouldn’t the county develop its own complaint process,” asked Rentmeister. “The applicant is going to have a way different outlook on the process than the county. Why wouldn’t we develop our own complaint process, period?”
“That’s part of the reason I asked for clarification,” Ferguson said.
“So, what can we do to remedy that situation, then,” asked Tilley. “Send something back to the ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeals) and ask them to do something with it,” asked Tilley.
“On text amendments, they go through RPC (Regional Planning Commission) or the county board,” said zoning administrator Angie Sarver.
“Does the ordinance need to state how complaints will be dealt with,” Ferguson asked.
Board vice chairman Camille Redman said the board should consult with the state’s attorney’s office before adding anything.
“I want to make this a determination of the committee about the questions we need to ask the state’s attorney,” he said.
“He might say that this is what you need to do for this application,” Redman said.
But she didn’t recommend the committee initiate any changes on its own.
Tilley and Redman, on opposite sides of the wind energy issue, agreed on this point.
Ferguson said he sought clarification about at what point in the application process a complaint procedure would be submitted.
Tilley asked how important it was with regard to the Tradewind application.
“It’s over,” she said.