Cerro Gordo supervisors approve moratorium on new wind & solar energy systems in rural parts of county

MASON CITY — The Cerro Gordo County Board of Supervisors today approved an 18-month moratorium on accepting applications on issuing permits for utility-scale wind energy conversion systems, solar energy installations, and battery storage installations in the rural portions of the county.

County administrative officer Tom Meyer says the county’s Planning & Zoning Commission recently endorsed the idea of a moratorium after a suggestion from the county’s just-departed zoning administrator that one should be put in place to address future applications.   “Currently what being done is anything that came forward is being processed under a special use permit. Those don’t have direct, distinct rules to everything that happens under a special use permit. That’s why our previous zoning administrator was recommending a moratorium in light of that, as well as we started a comprehensive plan about a year ago, it should be completed mid-to-late summer. That also is focusing on renewable energy too, and that will help guide any kind of changes we may or may not make to our current ordinances.”

12 people spoke during today’s public hearing about the moratorium, with only two being against. Susan Floy of rural Clear Lake says wind towers will hurt farmers trying to farm their land.  “It also would inhibit some of the aerial applications that are most recently most dependent on for taking care of crops, and if there’s windmills around, that’s not going to happen because airplanes cannot do that. So how are these farm operators going to be compensated for that?”

Stuart Seible of rural Swaledale says he doesn’t want any more windmills around the area of his property.  “You’re going to have to live with that ugliness the rest of your life, because these things will last 30 years or so. It’s getting to be hideous to live there. You have to deal with the sound, the animals being killed.”

Corey Eberling representing Apex Clean Energy asked for the supervisors to not enact such a long moratorium.   “Do any of you with your businesses or boards that you are on stop doing business? Would you stop a senior from graduating because you are changing the economic criteria? Would you stop selling insurance to someone because another insurance company is making a change? We don’t, we continue to as is, and then we change the rules. So we just asked that you reduce it to nine months.”

Rand Fisher from Clive is part of a new organization called the Center for Infrastructure and Economic Development. He says they have reservations about any type of moratorium established by the county.  “We’re not sure it’s fair to land owners who are trying to make plans with their land. Many of them are farmers in trying to plan their futures, make investment in drainage, equipment, and other sorts of things. Delay and procrastination can take a toll on those.”

The supervisors unanimously approved the ordinance establishing the moratorium and waived the second and third readings of the ordinance.