WATERLOO — A local farmer has lost his legal challenge against a planned wind energy project in southern Black Hawk County.
District Court Judge Kellyann Lekar issued a ruling Monday affirming the county Board of Adjustment’s decision to issue a special permit for Washburn Wind Energy’s plans to erect 35 large wind turbines in Eagle Township east of Hudson.
Harold Youngblut, who farms near the controversial project, filed a lawsuit last year claiming the April 24, 2018, Board of Adjustment action violated the county’s zoning ordinance and amounted to an illegal “taking” of property due to the effect on neighbors.
The wind energy project drew heavy opposition from surrounding property owners who argued the turbines would create noise and shadow flicker that would jeopardize their health and property values.
But Lekar said “the record demonstrates that the board acted in accordance with the zoning ordinances and the Iowa Code; its decision is supported by substantial evidence and the decision is not unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious.”
Lekar said the board “was mindful of its duties to listen to and consider the competing concerns on this issue before carefully making its decision.”
Youngblut’s attorney, John Holmes, said it is “probable” his client will appeal the ruling.
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Wind farm developers RMP Access, of DeSoto, have said Youngblut’s legal action has prevented them from finding buyers for the project to date.
Meanwhile, Lekar’s decision was filed just 20 minutes before a hearing on whether landowners planning to host the turbines should be allowed to participate in the court proceedings.
Some 26 property owners who signed lease agreements to rent their land to Washburn Wind Energy are seeking to intervene in the case to protect their financial interests.
“The Board of Adjustment’s interest in the case is merely to defend the vote of its members,” attorney Vernon Squires said in a brief. “The Board of Adjustment has no economic stake. The intervenors have millions of potential lease revenue at stake.”
Squires asked Lekar to approve the request despite her earlier ruling so the landowners are able to be part of any appeal. He also indicated it is likely they will ask the courts to require Youngblut to file an appeal bond in the case.
Holmes opposed the intervention effort. He also contends an appeal bond was not appropriate because there was no injunction to keep Washburn Wind Energy from moving ahead while the litigation is pending.
Lekar said she would rule on the intervenors’ request as soon as possible.