Supervisors want to look at utility zoning

County board to enlist help of regional planning


LEE COUNTY - It will be a fine line to walk or dance or whatever, but Lee County Supervisors hinted Monday that utility zoning could be coming to the county.
The move came quickly from Chairman Garry Seyb after again hearing from Andrew Johnson, a West Point farmer, who has opposed all private investment on Lee County private lands against landowner wishes.
Johnson, who has been vocal against predominantly eminent domain for pipeline projects, has been at the last three meetings in opposition of a wind turbine farm project in northern Lee County.
Tenasca and Cordelia, two foreign energy companies, have plans to build approximately 75 300-megawatt wind turbines in north Lee County, but Seyb said he's heard from several landowners, including Lee County Farm Bureau members, who are opposed to the project.
"I can honestly say I've not had anyone push back on the idea of looking at zoning ordinances dealing with utilities," Seyb said.
"Quite frankly I've had several who've said this may be the time we do need to do something."
Supervisor Matt Pflug said maybe it's time the county get serious about looking at ordinances.
"This isn't going to stop here. It’s going to continue on and maybe we need to put it in motion.”
Supervisor Ron Fedler said he’s heard some concern about blanket ordinances, but not on ordinances that focus on utilities.
Johnson said the structures change not only the environment of the land they sit on, but also detract from what people had envisioned for their lives when they made the decision to live agriculturally.
“I told someone the other day. The sunrise and sunset belong to everyone. These windmills you can see from a long ways away. You’re going to look at that and say that one belongs to Jane Doe and that one belongs Mr. Smith. I’m afraid its going to create animosity and hard feelings and family reunions that won’t be the same anymore,” Johnson said.
Seyb said he likes to use the phrase, “It's a different postcard.”
Johnson said he doesn’t like the idea of blanket zoning, but it may be time to consider something to curb the private energy generation efforts through Lee County’s agricultural landscape.
“It’s a tough game. It really is. It’s a fine line. But we’re not talking about a pole barn or a weld shop or even a hog barn. We’re talking about an industrial generation facility or industrial pipeline carrying a hazardous material. There has to be some regulation locally,” he said.
Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise said she reached out to Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Mike Norris for his take on how zoning would fit into plans for the area.
“Let’s see what he comes back with. I haven’t heard back from him yet.”
Seyb said that would be the agency to get things moving forward.
“Us reaching out and talking with Southeast Iowa Regional Planning, that’s what they do, that’s their business, and they will be able to give us guidance and a roadmap for where we’re going and for the next steps,” he said.
“I’ve talked with owners. Some are very passionate that something needs to be done, but ‘don’t step on my rights'. This is not going to be overnight, it will be a year or better before we get something on the books. You’ll have to bring a lot of people together to get something done.”
Seyb said he’s hearing that the project is about seven years out, and the county will need to bring people together, including mayors of cities, school systems, Lee County Farm Bureau, special interest groups such as the Cattleman’s Association.
“You’re going to have to have several people at the table that are going to have thoughts.”
Supervisor Tom Schulz said Keokuk and Fort Madison have comprehensive zoning plans. The cities each have a two-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction that they can work in.
Seyb said those that have reservations about zoning need to remember that when the companies are at your door, it’s really too late to do something. He said that makes it a target on that energy company.
“That process should go beyond that and be a comprehensive approach that doesn’t target one group or industry. It’s what do we do to protect our interests as a whole, as a county, and this is how we see our county growing and developing over the next 50 years. A long-term plan that isn’t targeting one particular group,” he said.

Lee County, windmills, wind farm, zoning, utility, Board of Supervisors, Iowa, news, Pen City Current, Tenasca, Cordelio, projects,


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