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Floyd County extends wind energy permit moratorium as zoning rewrite continues

By Bob Steenson,

The Floyd County Board of Supervisors at its regular meeting Monday morning extended a moratorium on accepting applications or issuing permits for new commercial wind energy projects, to allow more time for the county to update its current wind energy zoning ordinance.

The moratorium also precludes permits for new commercial battery storage installations, which will likely also be covered in a county zoning amendment.

The original resolution had set the moratorium until May 20, but allowed an extension if the Floyd County Planning and Zoning Commission needed more time to send a rezoning recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

The resolution adopted unanimously Monday extends the moratorium until July 1.

According to the original resolution, if a zoning recommendation has not been made to the supervisors by the final July 1 deadline, the supervisors would have the option of negotiating with wind energy companies directly to enter into development agreements between the county and the companies.

Although there are two companies currently actively exploring new wind energy projects in Floyd County – Invenergy and NextEra – both have said at previous meetings that it would be unlikely they would be ready to apply for a permit within the time covered by the original moratorium or its extension.

The members of the Planning and Zoning Commission have been working with John Robbins, a senior planner with the North Iowa Area Council of Governments (NIACOG), who the county hired to help direct the amendment process, and Robbins has also led several joint meetings with the supervisors and the P&Z commissioners on a variety of wind energy and battery storage topics.

Robbins, who is also the former Cerro Gordo County zoning administrator, said at the last Planning and Zoning meeting that he was close to having a draft of a proposed zoning amendment ready for the commissioners to begin working with.

Supervisor Chair Mark Kuhn has said several times that the county is on record as favoring commercial wind energy, and the goal of new zoning is to update it to include changes in wind energy technology and to protect county residents and property owners, while still allowing development.

Changes being considered in the zoning amendment include setback rules for towers, noise rules, site reclamation requirements, as well as such issues as shadow flicker, ice throw, wildlife impact, effects on drainage systems, impacts on aviation and communications systems and other concerns have been mentioned by people who are advocating for changing the ordinance.

Also at the supervisors meeting Monday, the board:

• Approved two agreements with the city of Nora Springs whereby the county will maintain a couple of gravel roads within Nora Springs, including grading, snow removal and rock replacement, and the city will mow the grass around the county shed at 216 N. Seminary Ave.

County Engineer Jacob Page said the road maintenance won’t take much additional county time and the city will reimburse the county for the cost of any rock applied to those roads.

Page said the road maintenance and the mowing agreements aren’t directly related, and the county could continue to maintain the gravel roads even if Nora Springs wasn’t able to mow.

• Approved publishing the county’s annual noxious weed notice, requiring people to destroy weeds “including but not limited to Canada thistle, musk thistle, teasel, leafy spurge, annual sunflower, sour dock, palmer amaranth and wild mustard.”

Action can include “cutting, tillage cropping or treating with chemicals or combination thereof, as often as may be required to prevent the weed from blooming and maturing seeds during the growing season.”

County Auditor Gloria Carr said the new weed commissioner, Tim Laube, who is in the Secondary Roads Department, said there were no new weeds added to the list this year.

The next meeting of the Board of Supervisors will be Wednesday, May 29, beginning at 9 a.m., because of the Memorial Day holiday.

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