MORRISON – A Whiteside County committee is getting mixed reviews on whether it did a good job reviewing the county’s wind energy ordinance.
Residents pushing for more regulations say the County Board’s Public Works Committee didn’t do a thorough job.
Representatives of a company interested in setting up a wind farm give the panel a thumbs up.
Last week, the committee voted 4-1 to increase the required distance between houses and turbines from 1,400 to 1,600 feet. It suggested no other changes.
The 1,600-foot setback would be the largest in the state. Now, central Illinois’ McLean County has the longest at 1,500 feet, according to a Western Illinois University study.
The setback issue was referred to the board’s Executive Committee, which, on Tuesday, voted to delay a decision until next month.
Sterling resident Amanda Norris wanted to know what the basis was for the committee’s decision to increase the distance. She said the panel’s lack of effort was a “disservice” to residents.
She said the committee never had a serious discussion on issues such as the abandonment of turbines and the impact of noise on nearby residents.
“There has been an effort to dismiss information because it comes from the Internet,” said Norris, who is the president of Sauk Valley Tea Party. “You don’t have to go far for credible sources.”
Deer Grove Mayor Al Thompson urged the county to include property value guarantees in its ordinance. That would mean wind energy companies would have to compensate nearby landowners for drops in their property values blamed on turbines.
He noted that wind energy companies argue that turbines don’t hurt neighboring property values.
“If it doesn’t affect anything, they shouldn’t have any qualms with signing on to property value guarantees,” Thompson said.
Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power is planning a wind farm for Bureau, Lee and Whiteside counties. Only a small fraction would be in Whiteside County. The turbines would be near Deer Grove, population 48, which is south of Rock Falls.
John Martin of Mainstream told the Executive Committee that he appreciated the committee’s effort. He said the existing setback of 1,400 feet, along with special-use conditions, would be sufficient.
In reaction to the news of Mainstream’s plans, the Deer Grove village board voted in the spring for a 1.5-mile setback for wind turbines around the village’s boundaries. Now, some are questioning whether the village has that power. The state’s attorney’s office is researching the issue.
Executive Committee member Jim Duffy, D-Sterling, proposed the panel delay a vote until next month.
Members voted 4-3 in favor of Duffy’s motion. Duffy; Karen Nelson, D-Rock Falls; Sue Britt, D-Morrison; and Bill McGinn, D-Sterling, supported the delay, with Steve Wilkins, D-Morrison; Tony Arduini, D-Rock Falls; and Bill Abbot, R-Fulton, against.
After the meeting, Wilkins said Norris is following national tea party leadership, which he says is against wind energy.
Norris took exception to that allegation.
“This isn’t the tea party. This is me. I want protection for the taxpayers,” she said. “I’m not trying to drive out wind farms completely. I want them to meet requirements.”