Wind committee moving gradually toward guidelines
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A test tower, that gathers information about wind along Bristol Ridge, sits on the property of Monroe Township Zoning Board member Doug Boots, 6333 Township Road 178, West Liberty. Monroe is the only township in Logan County that has rules in place to allow wind turbine development.
The Logan County Wind Power Committee continues to make progress in its efforts to draw up recommendations for township wind turbine zoning ordinances.
But it may not be fast enough for some residents who want to make sure the towering structures do not begin going up on nearby properties without assurances they are safe.
“This is the first time they have had an in-depth discussion on any real issues,” Jefferson Township resident Linda Mazurek said after the committee discussed noise issues Wednesday morning. “But I don’t know that we are a lot further along than we were six months ago. It’s been long enough to get recommendations and keep this going.”
The committee was formed last spring by county and township officials, the Logan- Union-Champaign Regional Planning Commission and representatives of wind power companies. They had hoped to have guidelines for wind turbines in place by early this year, Logan County Engineer Scott Coleman said.
“The LUC has spent nine to 10 months telling zoning boards they should wait until we have these recommendations; so we are certainly under some pressure to come up with a document of some sort,” he said. It will likely be at least two to three months before a document is finished.
Meanwhile, Monroe Township has passed a zoning ordinance that would allow developers to begin placing wind turbines in the township, while the fate of a Jefferson Township ordinance depends on either a court decision or voter referendum.
Rushcreek Township had previously passed an ordinance strict on wind turbine developers, but voters rejected the language in November. The township is currently without an ordinance.
Bristol Ridge cuts a north-south path through the three townships and into Champaign County, making the area a prime location for wind farm development.
The committee meets twice a month to discuss issues and this week focused primarily on noise generated by the turbines.
Mike Speerschneider, a representative of the wind company Everpower Renewables, presented a draft of noise regulations that could be included in the final document.
Setting measurable noise limits may not prove to be all that difficult, but ensuring that they are enforceable in a fair way could be more tricky, Mr. Speerschneider said. He said wind companies should be protected from marginal complaints from residents upset by the presence of wind turbines.
“Having a protocol to handle concerns and complaints is an issue, but we need a way that the township or wind companies are not subjected to excessive monitoring or verification if the project is running normally,” he said.
Monroe Township Trustee Don Bradley suggested that individual townships enter into contracts with independent sound experts who would double check methods used by wind companies to make sure they adequately reflect the noise level of the proposed wind farms.
Ross Nelson, a Jefferson Township resident who has signed a lease with a wind company, said he does not believe turbines will be any louder than snow-making machines at Mad River Mountain Ski Resort, which is about a mile from his home.
“I’ve lived across from Mad River Mountain since 1976 and there’s noise. What’s the big deal if it’s bringing money into our county?” Mr. Nelson said. “If they want to set a standard, I think they should set it there (at levels produced by the resort).”
The committee also discussed possible setbacks for turbines and said they are currently considering somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 feet from occupied structures. Wind developers have recommended 1.25 times the height of the tower, while residents opposed to the mills would like nearly a mile – a distance that would effectively prohibit wind towers from being erected in eastern Logan County, Mr. Coleman said.
Even if the committee is successful in crafting LUC-approved guidelines, no township is required to adopt them.
“It’s not to say that if we come up with draft language, a township could ignore it completely and do what it wants,” Mr. Coleman said.
By Reuben Mees
Bellefontaine Examiner Staff Writer
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