The Union Township Zoning Commission voted on setback distances for wind turbines from property lines and primary structures as well as maximum turbine heights and to send a new recommendation to the Logan Union Champaign Planning Commission during the public meeting at the Champaign County Community Center Wednesday night. Roughly 50 people were in attendance.
In a 4-1 decision, the commission voted to set the setback distance for the turbines at 1.2 times the height of the turbine from property lines, roads, utilities and primary structures. Commission President Bill Runyan said that would make the setback minimum for a 400-foot turbine 480 feet. Don Skillman was the only member to vote against the motion. Skillman was unsure as to why the commission was voting on 1.2 times the height instead of 1.25 times the height, as stated in the Monroe Township resolution considered originally.
The 1.2 figure was also voted on for setback from the village of Mutual’s corporation boundary. Commission Secretary Ken Davis stated that he had mulled setbacks of 800 to 1,000 feet, but settled with 1.2 times the height of the turbine. All members were in favor except Skillman. According to Scott Schockling, assistant prosecuting attorney for Champaign County, if a turbine is constructed at the minimum setback and Mutual grows, the turbine would be considered a non-conforming use and would be grandfathered in.
All members, with the exception of Skillman, agreed to set the maximum height for turbines at 500 feet. The height is measured from the tip of the blade at its tallest point.
The commission did vote unanimously to forward a wind turbine resolution created by the Union Neighbors United on to the LUC (Logan-Union-Champaign Planning Commission) for recommendations.
The commission and Union Township Trustees rejected the last proposal made by the UNU.
Although the public was not permitted to speak at the meeting, the UNU presented the media with a prepared press release that stated that the group was submitting a revised zoning proposal to regulate wind turbines in the area.
“We want to establish fair and balanced zoning which allows wind power in Union Township while protecting neighbors and preserving the scenic beauty of Union Township,” the release quoted UNU member Julia Johnson.
The release also read, “A previous proposal was rejected by the Union Township Zoning Commission on the advice of the Champaign County Prosecuting Attorney. According to Johnson, “The prosecuting attorney provided a detailed analysis of our earlier submission. We have worked to address every area of concern and we are confident the revised proposal can be adopted.”
A public hearing was called for Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. to discuss the LUC’s recommendations on the new UNU proposal. The hearing, where the public will be permitted to speak, will tentatively take place at the Champaign County Community Center.
In a 4-1 vote, with Skillman against, the commission agreed to change the wind turbines from conditional use to permitted use. According to Davis, if the turbines remained a conditional use, each individual structure could be challenged in court, which would ultimately cause a slowdown in the judicial process of criminal, civil and felony cases.
The commission also voted 4-1, Skillman against, to allow a landowner with a turbine on his or her property to get a waiver to allow the turbine to be constructed closer the their primary structure.
Commission member David Hayden felt that there were still some issues that needed to be reviewed and researched before the commission sent a proposal to the LUC. The commission agreed and set a meeting for Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. tentatively at the Community Center.
After the meeting, when asked why the commission was discussing a more permissive proposal than it looked at originally, Runyan explained, “There are two very opposing sides to this; those that want no turbines whatsoever and others that want them because they get compensated very well. We can’t please everyone, we just want something that will work for the community.”
However, Runyan did point out that none of the issues that were decided on by the commission were set in stone. “We are trying to get some general guidelines that we can live with.”
Runyan also expressed his displeasure with the Sunshine Law that requires the commission to work in public session. He stated that if he and the commission could work behind closed doors the issues would be solved much more quickly.
When asked why he voted no on many of the issues, Skillman said he would have preferred to see exactly what the group was voting for – on paper.
“I didn’t feel comfortable,” he said. “I was looking more for a formal ‘what’s it really going to say.'”
He added that he was not necessarily against the issues, but he didn’t feel the commission was doing things properly and his “no” vote was the best way to express that.
By Shaun Dunlap
6 September 2007
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