Solar and wind energy, economic development spur Perry annexations, rezoning

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City of Perry map showing recent annexations of property and extension of city limits.

Perry’s city limits expanded about 20 percent in the last year thanks to several voluntary annexations by local property owners. This week the Perry City Council concluded rezoning these new city grounds with the final public reading of the new ordinance.

When the city council approves the annexation of property, a new parcel is automatically zoned AG (agricultural) and must be rezoned before the new portion of Perry can be put to other uses, such as residential housing or industrial manufacturing. The council tries to match the zoning of new parcels with surrounding land uses and make the city’s growth consistent with the Perry Comprehensive Plan 2030.

Most of the newly annexed property is on Perry’s southeast side. Seven parcels, totally about 270 acres, lie adjacent to the Perry Industrial Park and are owned respectively by Midwest Oilseed and Stine Seed, two corporate arms of Dallas County ag baron Harry Stine’s empire.

The city of Perry annexed Stine’s land as part of its pursuit of certified-site status for the Perry Industrial Park. The additional land is needed in order for the 60-acre industrial park to qualify as a large site within the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) certified-site scheme. Large sites contain between 250 and 500 acres, according to the IEDA scheme, with super sites at 500 to 1,000 acres and mega sites at 1,000 acres or more.

“This is a huge deal,” Perry Mayor Jay Pattee said about the certified-site application. “It could eventually lead to a new industry in Perry,” he told the Perry City Council at Monday night’s meeting.

A decision by the IEDA on the Perry’s application for certified-site status is expected soon. Iowa’s first four certified sites were announced April 28, 2014.

Birds and turbines

Eight other newly annexed parcels on Perry’s south side, lying east from K Avenue, were chosen by wind-power developer Marshall Wind LLC for placement of three utility-scale wind turbines. Marshall Wind has signed lease agreements with the owners of the parcels, Struyck’s Slopes (157 acres) and William and Lynn Knoll (139 acres), and Perry’s Zoning Board of Adjustment has issued conditional use permits to the wind company.

When the Dallas County Zoning Commission passed an ordinance last year preventing construction of the turbines on county land, the land owners sought annexation into the city limits of Perry, whose less strict zoning ordinance governing utility-scale wind turbines permitted their construction. The 296 acres will remain zoned AG (agricultural).

Perry residents Joey Lynn Shaw and Teresa Painter and a group called Friends of Perry have filed suit in Iowa District Court against Perry’s Zoning Board of Adjustment in an effort to prevent the erection of the 447-foot wind towers. They claim the zoning board illegally issued the conditional use permits. The suit is pending.

roundhouse
The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul roundhouse once lay on Perry’s west side, near the present site of Tyson Fresh Meats.

The 35-acre annexation on Perry’s west side lies directly north of the Tyson Fresh Meats pork plant, which lies outside the city limits. The annexed land is part of the Perry brownfields project and formerly served as a Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad roundhouse. Perry’s brownfields have qualified for several Environmental Protection Agency cleanup grants in recent years.

If approved, the parcel will be rezoned HI (heavy industrial).

A solar-energy development company, Megawatt Photovoltaic Development Inc., has proposed building an array of solar collectors on the brownfield grounds. The project could generate as much as five megawatts of solar energy for use in the Perry area, according to Sean Kennedy, CEO of Megawatt.

“It’s a big project and the first of its kind in Iowa,” Kennedy said. “Generally speaking, Iowa is in the infancy of a utility-scale solar industry that could rival ethanol, biodiesel or wind. Like any new industry, utility-scale solar needs a leg up. Representative to the Iowa House and Iowa Senate are working on that.”mw-pv

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Sean Kennedy

Megawatt seeks local customers for the energy. Large local consumers of electricity, such as Tyson Fresh Meats and the Progressive Foundry, have been mentioned–but not by Kennedy, who is cautious at this early stage–as possible Megawatt customers.

“We’re in discussions regarding a power purchase agreement for the electricity produced by the Perry project,” Kennedy said. “We are pleased with the direction those discussions are taking. We will design the solar array to meet the requirements of a power purchase agreement. With the acreage available, we can easily build a solar electric generating plant that will have a capacity of over five megawatts and produce more than 10 million kilowatt hours a year,” he said.

Kennedy said his company specializes in small, utility-scale photovoltaic plants.

“Megawatt advocates creative use of underutilized land through development of PV solar energy,” he said. “We secure the land, negotiate power purchase agreements, oversee permitting and reclassification of land, direct engineering studies, design PV solar plants and tender and manage EPC contracts.”

The other new parcels adding to the city’s extent include property on Perry’s north side intended for an eventual expansion of Violet Hill Cemetery and property south of the Perry Hy-Vee expected to see the development of single-family homes.

City of Perry map showing recent annexations of property and extension of city limits.
City of Perry map showing recent annexations of property and extension of city limits.

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