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Zoning change will set precedent for wind farms  

Boone County is reexamining its zoning laws, and one group hopes adjustments to the code will clear a path for a new wind farm proposal.

The back-and-forth battle for the right to operate wind turbines ended in court this year, when a judge upheld the County Board’s ruling to deny the Heritage Wind Farm project.

The group could bring a proposal back to the County Board, so long as its plans differ from the previously rejected project.

Wayne Ward, a member of one of the four families that make up Heritage, said whether a new project goes forth hinges on what zoning laws the county adopts.

Zoning code overhaul

As it’s written, the proposed ordinance is too stringent to allow for a feasible project, Ward said. He said if the ordinance is adjusted, a new project could emerge.

“Until they get those ordinances straightened out, it’s no use. It’s futile,” Ward said.

The county is working to overhaul its zoning code for the first time since 1984, said Adam Tegen, director of planning for Belvidere and Boone County.

“It’s a code that doesn’t work anymore for Boone County,” Tegen said. “In 1984, Boone County was a quiet little county with no growth pressure. That’s obviously changed.”

The current code didn’t address wind power until about five years ago, Tegen said, when it was amended to allow turbines by a special-use permit. But even then, it didn’t give any direction for a potential developer, Tegen said.

Public hearings

The massive revamp of county code reaches far beyond wind farms. Public hearings about the dozens of proposed changes are being held by the Zoning Board of Appeals, which will vote on the codes once hearings are concluded. The changes will need approval from the Planning, Zoning and Building Committee and the County Board before becoming law.

The proposed code for wind energy rules that turbines must be 2,000 feet from any property not involved in the deal.

“The 2,000-foot setback makes it impossible to have anything in Boone County,” Ward said.

Wallace Ramsay, the man who spearheaded the first wind farm project, presented county officials with a series of objections to the proposed ordinance, including the required distance.

Ramsay did not return Register Star phone calls.

In 2005, Heritage proposed a 15 wind-turbine project on farmland near Quail Trapp and Ramsay roads.

Proponents praised wind energy as a low-cost producer of electricity that will increase the county’s tax base and income for landowners.

Project voted down

Naysayers said turbines would lower property values, calling them noisy, unsightly and a danger to wildlife and pilots.

The project was voted down 8-4 by the county in October 2005. After a judge ruled a new vote must take place because of a “logical inconsistency” at committee level, the board passed the project by a 5-4 vote.

A judge then decreed that the meeting was called improperly, and the measure required a third and final vote, which failed 7-4 in July 2006.

Judge Gerald Grubb upheld the decision in July. It was not appealed, Boone County State’s Attorney Jim Hursh said.

By Kevin Haas

Rockford Register Star

29 September 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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