PRINCETON – The majority of the Bureau County Board does not think the building permit fees for wind turbines are too high.
At Tuesday night’s county board meeting, board member Jim Lilley made a motion to reduce the building permit fee for wind farms from $25 per foot of tower height to $1 per foot of tower height. The $25 figure is excessive, possibly illegal and should be reduced, he said.
Lilley cited a letter from an attorney he hired to review the county’s building permit fees for wind turbines. The attorney stated, in part, that the $25 per foot permit/zoning fee does not appear to bear any reasonable relationship to the regulation of the turbine, since there is nothing to indicate the county does anything other than collect a fee.
Bureau County State’s Attorney Patrick Herrmann disagreed with the attorney’s opinion, saying the attorney apparently did not have all the information. There is a lot more involved with a wind farm project than with other building requests. With the first Crescent Ridge project, there were more than 20 nights of hearings, which were attended by various officials. Also, Bureau County’s $25-per-foot fee is similar to that of other neighboring counties’ fees for wind farms.
Herrmann also said the wind farm developers themselves did not complain about the cost of the building permit fees. The developers voluntarily paid the county’s set fees and would have a hard time coming back later to complain about them, Herrmann said.
Board member Bill Bennett, who serves as chairman of the zoning board, also said the wind farms are not the typical building project. Taking into consideration the estimated 20-year life span for the turbines, plus the county’s continued involvement with the wind farms and the increased wear and tear to county roads, Bennett said the $25 per foot building permit was not unreasonable at all.
“I don’t think $25 is enough,” Bennett said.
Board member Steve Sondgeroth also expressed his support for the $25-per-foot fee.
“It’s in line with other counties,” Sondgeroth said. “It’s reasonable, and it’s necessary. We’ve got a lot of time forward to deal with this.”
Rick Wilkin also agreed, saying the wind farms are a long-term commitment for the county.
When it came time to vote, the county board failed to approve Lilley’s motion, with only Lilley, Lisa Mangrich and Marsha Lilley casting yes votes.
By Donna Barker
17 May 2008
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