MORRISON – Whiteside County’s zoning panel could recommend as early as Wednesday whether a proposed wind farm should go forward.
Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power proposes the wind farm for Whiteside, Bureau and Lee counties. The project has drawn opposition from residents in all three counties.
The Whiteside County Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation would go to the full County Board for a vote, possibly at its Aug. 21 meeting.
Whiteside County is ahead of Bureau and Lee counties. Bureau County started its public hearings for the Mainstream project in March and plans to have its next one Aug. 15.
Mainstream turned in its application to Lee County later because officials were considering changes to the county’s wind energy ordinance. Lee County’s hearings started this month.
Whiteside and Lee counties’ hearings are at the same time Wednesday night.
In Lee County, Bureau County appraiser Michael Crowley, hired by Mainstream, will continue to be cross-examined. He argues he has found no evidence that wind turbines hurt nearby property values in the long term.
In Whiteside County, the Planning and Zoning Commission is expected to determine findings from the hearings and make recommendations for the special-use permit for the wind turbines, said Stuart Richter, the county’s zoning administrator.
Mainstream is proposing nine turbines in far southeastern Whiteside County; all parties agree the county has jurisdiction over seven of them. But the village of Deer Grove asserts that it has power over two, both of which are within 11/2 miles of its limits.
Richter acknowledged the village has power to approve the two turbines, but he said it was unclear whether Deer Grove actually had authority to issue special-use permits.
During Whiteside County’s hearings, Mainstream’s John Martin said the village didn’t meet the regulatory requirements to keep out turbines. He provided no details, but he said his company was willing to work with Deer Grove officials.
“It’s appropriate for the county to feel empowered to approve or disapprove the two turbines,” Martin said Thursday.
Last year, the village drafted a zoning ordinance under the belief that doing so would allow it to regulate turbines within the 1 1/2-mile buffer zone.
Richter said that if Mainstream wanted to challenge Deer Grove’s authority, it would need to take up that matter in court.
Retired judge Tim Slavin presided over Whiteside County’s hearings, ruling on procedural issues. During that time, commission members rarely spoke.
With the hearing phase ended, the commission members will take on a bigger role.
Commission Chairman Roland Mose of Erie wouldn’t give his opinion on the wind farm.
“My mind is open,” he said. “I haven’t talked with members about how they feel, either.”
Lee County resident Bob Logan has been attending hearings in all three counties. He said he’ll go to Lee County’s meeting Wednesday night.
“Whiteside’s is in the hands of the zoning board. All of the testimony has been taken,” said Logan, Franklin Grove’s village president. “I don’t think I would have any impact on Whiteside’s anymore.”
The Whiteside County Planning and Zoning Commission meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Rock Falls Community Building, 601 W. 10th St. Call the zoning office, 815-772-5175, for more information.
The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday on the third floor of the Old County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St. in Dixon. Call the zoning office, 815-288-3643, for more information.
The Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals meets at 7 p.m. Aug. 15 in the County Courthouse, 700 S. Main St. in Princeton. Its zoning office is at 815-875-1631.