CLINTON — Clinton County Supervisors Tom Determann and Jim Irwin Jr. are both supporting the county in using a consultant to help plan a proposed solar project west of Grand Mound.
The proposed Hawkeye Solar project includes a proposal for a 200 megawatt facility and a 50 megawatt facility, Power Ranger Sam O’Keefe said at the Iowa Utilities Board meeting last week. Affected neighboring landowners raised concerns about the project at that meeting and Monday’s supervisory board meeting.
Determann supports the county seeking to use a consultant to evaluate the proposal. He noted the previous discussion that this is out of the realm of supervisors, Director of Planning and Zoning Thomas Barnes and Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf.
Irwin also thinks a consultant is needed to evaluate the proposal, he said.
“I’ve said it many times, the Supervisory Board is jack of all trades and we’re not masters of anything,” Irwin said. “We find ourselves in situations that are often beyond us and we have to dig in and try to investigate and get through. We don’t want to make the wrong choice for Clinton County. None of us do. I want to make the best decision possible for Clinton County. »
Determann would like to see Barnes and Wolf give recommendations to supervisors on a consultant, he said.
Barnes confirmed that there will be a minimum of three months of process from the time Hawkeye Solar submits the application for the project before a decision is made. The consultant will help with the process once the application is submitted to the county, Barnes believes.
The county’s current ordinance requires a 50-foot setback, Barnes said. The setback distance would be decided before approval is granted for the project, O’Keefe said. The months-long permitting process is designed for the county to negotiate entry and then negotiate the appropriate reverse for approval, he said.
They are currently preparing the application knowing that it may change during the process, he said. They haven’t really had a chance to work on the concerns raised by people who have spoken out against the project, he pointed out.
“We see it as our responsibility to work with these neighbors strategically and come up with a plan to address and fairly resolve this issue,” O’Keefe said. “And then, from my perspective, we’re not saying it’s up to all of you to figure out exactly how you’re going to address all of these neighbors like concerns about setbacks, for example, right now. We would first make efforts to try to reach an agreement with them, hopefully in a structured, organized, fair and consistent way. And then collaborate with all of you on this. I think you would ultimately decide whether it’s enough or not.
To date, O’Keefe has spoken with about 80% of the project’s immediate neighbors, he said. He educated them on the project knowing they will work with them over the next few months to find a solution, he said. They have yet to approach any neighbors with a proposal, he said. If they negotiate with landowners, it would be consistent for everyone or for certain categories, he pointed out.
Proponents estimate the project will generate more than $12 million in new taxes to be paid over its lifetime, 50% of which will go to the Central DeWitt and Calamus Wheatland school districts; 40% to Clinton County for roads, infrastructure and utilities; and 10% to local townships, area colleges, agricultural extension, assessor and state. They estimate that 200 or more construction jobs will be created during the construction phase of the project.
Clinton County resident Ginger Pingel, a neighboring owner of the possible project area, does not believe the project developer has proven the financial viability of the $12 million they suspect will be coming into the county over the life of the project. project, she said. She wondered if it would be an option to require them to guarantee some minimum tax payment regardless of power generation so the county doesn’t lose money. She referred to certain situations, such as extreme weather conditions, where the power plant would not produce power.
“Just like a citizen perspective, as a taxpayer, I’m not just willing to listen to what they tell me and automatically believe it’s true,” Pingel said. “I think they need to provide supporting data for these types of things and indicate what that risk-adjusted number, down and up, might look like.”
Pingel asked under what circumstances a petition would influence the supervisory board’s position on the proposal.
Irwin stressed the need for facts and data. It is awaiting data from individuals against the Hawkeye Solar project proposal and is also awaiting data from Hawkeye Solar with information, he said.
“Emotions can drive a lot of conversations and try to nudge us in one direction,” Irwin said. “But from my perspective as a board member, I have to make my decisions based on facts and data. It can’t just be about the emotions per se.