The Buchanan County Planning & Zoning Committee met on June 7th at 7:00 PM. The meeting was held at the Falcon Civic Center in Independence. 8 of 9 committee members attended along with Chad Beatty, Environmental Health and Zoning Administrator.
2 members of Bright Future Iowa attended: Swati Dandekar and Mike Carberry.
Several public hearings were held, one of which involved requested approval by Buchanan County Conservation to rezone 0.328 acres from “A-1” Agricultural to “M” Manufacturing to construct a 50-60 kW solar array to offset the electricity needs for their nature center, maintenance shop and new 26-site full hook-up campground. Mike Carberry of Bright Future Iowa opposed the rezoning designation to “M” Manufacturing claiming that solar panels are not manufacturing and people who work in manufacturing would be insulted by that designation.
Quotes are being sought to work on a new comprehensive plan that will include wind turbine items such as setbacks, decommissioning and land preservation. Chad Beatty pointed out that Buchanan County is primarily agricultural and the number one priority is soil. A task force of around 20 people is being put together to help discuss and research the proposed project. Because of other commitments, such as full-time jobs, he also stated that thinking the process will go quickly is unrealistic.
Mike Robinson of P&Z said that the committee had previously voted 9-0 against raising the CSR from 55 and sent that recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. He expressed his frustration that the committee was once again dealing with the same subject.
The question was asked whether or not NextEra had the right of eminent domain. Bright Future Iowa stated that it did not. The question was also asked if an electric utility has that right. It was generally agreed that it does.
The question was asked of the committee if anyone on the committee or anyone working for the county had ever received a threat from NextEra or anyone representing NextEra. Chad Beatty stated that at the beginning of this proposed project, while on a phone conversation with a representative of NextEra, he was, indeed, threatened with a lawsuit on the grounds that it was unconstitutional to not raise the CSR so NextEra could put up wind turbines.
Suggestions were made to the committee to raise the setback of turbines to 1.5 miles from inhabited structures and lower the noise level to 30 decibels. Chad Beatty suggested getting data from neighboring states to compare their requirements.
The concern was raised to the committee regarding money NextEra has promised to local schools that will not be received if NextEra cannot put in turbines. There were no comments.