On August 26, plaintiff Heather Knebel of rural Traer filed a motion for declaratory judgment against the Tama County Board of Adjustment (BOA).
Knebel, a member of the Tama County Against Turbines LLC (TCAT) coalition, asks the Court to declare that the conditional use permits issued by the BOA to Salt Creek Wind LLC (Salt Creek), including 10 conditional use permits limited in scope, were approved on October 1. December 21, 2020 and 60 Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) approved on December 8, 2020 are illegal and void.
Salt Creek has submitted applications for conditional use permits to construct and operate a proposed wind power generation facility in Tama County, comprising up to 60 commercial wind turbines. To date, no wind turbines have been constructed for the proposed Salt Creek project.
Knebel asked the court to declare the conditional use permits illegal and void in law, arguing that the Tama County Board of Adjustment lacked jurisdiction to exercise zoning power over the agricultural land on which the Salt Creek project was proposed.
“My family and I live in the footprint. Salt Creek is proposing to install at least two commercial wind turbines just 1,500 feet from my family’s rural home,” Knebel said.
She then outlined her objections to the controversial project.
“Tama County’s Outdated Minimum Commercial Wind Energy Ordinance fails to provide safe setbacks from property lines to better protect property rights, especially those who have not signed easements for wind projects . Tama County’s current ordinance also allows far too much sound to be emitted from wind turbines at 60 decibels instead of no more than 40 decibels L-max, and the current ordinance does not limit shadow flicker that can be harmful to people and animals or limit infrasound at the property line”, she says. “Furthermore, the existing ordinance does not adequately protect landowners from decommissioning. There is no public complaint process and no full details on the enforcement of the orders, including the imposition of fines. proponents and project operators who fail to comply.
The Tama County zoning ordinance was passed 24 years ago in 1998 when language governing industrial wind projects was included in the master zoning ordinance. The lawsuit further seeks a court order for the BOA to revoke the wrongfully issued conditional use permits.
In approving Salt Creek’s applications and conditional use permits, Knebel argues that the BOA violated Iowa Code Chapter 335.2 by allowing the Salt Creek project to remove 2,638.24 acres of land from active production. premium crops from Tama County.
The lawsuit notes that each of the Tama County Zoning Certificate Application Forms submitted with the conditional use permit applications clearly indicated that the current use of the respective property was “cultivated land” and the current use of the adjacent property was “cultivated land”. Almost all of the cropland included in the conditional use permits for the proposed Salt Creek project is still in active row crop production today.
“Nothing in the application for the proposed Salt Creek Wind project or in the minutes of the Board of Adjustment meeting suggests that farming or row cropping has been abandoned by the owners of the cultivated land. In fact, with the exception of a few small excavation sites, all of the 2,638.24 acres of cropland in the conditional use permits issued for the proposed Salt Creek project remain in active row crop production.” , Knebel said.
Although she has two proposed commercial wind turbine sites within 1,500 feet of her family’s rural home in Traer, Knebel has not received notice from Salt Creek project officials or the BOA regarding the proposed project or BOA meetings held to consider applications for the proposed Salt Creek Wind project. .
The Tama County zoning ordinance was passed twenty-four years ago in 1998 when language governing industrial wind projects was included in the master zoning ordinance.
Knebel said her mission is on behalf of her fellow community members.
“As a permanent resident of Tama and for the thousands of people who want to change the ordinances, prevent the transformation of agricultural land into industrial land, it must be done in the right way,” she says. “We have an Iowa code that makes sure everyone in the county, including my family, is protected and things are done right.”