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Lawsuit says Iowa county had no power to approve wind farm

October 24, 2018

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — Lawyers have clashed in court over whether a Black Hawk County board had the power to approve a 35-turbine wind farm on land that’s historically been used for crop farming.

The county Board of Adjustment voted April 24 to give Washburn Wind Energy a special permit for the 70-megawatt project south of Waterloo.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports that a lawyer for farmer Harold Youngblut, who sued the board, said in court Tuesday that Iowa law prevents the county from regulating what happens on land that for years has been used for farming.

“If anybody takes the time to drive the roads in those townships, all you see is corn and soybeans everywhere you look,” said attorney John Holmes.

The board’s lawyer, Brent Hinders, acknowledged the law bars the county from telling property owners how to use agricultural land. But he said the county can regulate that land when the owner chooses to use it for nonfarming purposes such as wind turbines or shopping malls.

Holmes also contended the April 24 hearing and vote were moot, because the correct way to handle the permit request would have been through a rezoning application to the elected Board of Supervisors.

Hinders disagreed, saying the zoning ordinance lets the Board of Adjustment determine special use permits for wind turbines.

The judge will decide later whether the board’s action was invalid.

The project is the first wind farm to win approval under the county’s zoning ordinance.

The $120 million project drew objections from nearby property owners concerned about its potential impact on their health, quality of life and property values.

Project supporters said it would generate clean energy, boost the property tax base and give farmers where the turbines would be placed new revenue to keep their farms viable.

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Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, http://www.wcfcourier.com

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