PAXTON – Nearly 20 people filled a meeting room to voice their opinions about ordinances governing wind farms at a meeting of the Ford County Board’s Environmental Committee on Thursday night.
“We’re not here to stop wind farms by any means, but to protect homeowners from towers right next to their houses,” said committee Chairman Gene May of Paxton.
Few attending said they were completely opposed to wind farms. Nearly all objections concerned setback distances, especially related to a development planned east of Paxton.
Speaking of county ordinances adopted in 2006, rural Paxton resident Tom McQuinn said, “I think we could have one (wind tower) 250 feet away from a property line and that is a little concerning.” He added, “Most people move to the country for a country setting.” He also worried a nearby wind tower would impede an owner from constructing other buildings on his property.
Supervisor of Assessments and Zoning Officer Candice Short clarified that while current ordinances say a wind tower must be at least 250 feet from a property line, it also must be at least 1,000 feet from an existing structure.
At issue also was which governing body has jurisdiction around the city limits.
City Attorney Bob Martensen of Paxton said legislation adopted in August 2007 is confusing to many. His opinion is that the law allows concurrent jurisdiction by the city and county for a 1.5-mile radius around a municipality. Developers would then have to comply with whichever code is most restrictive.
He said his recommendation would be that the Paxton City Council members prohibit wind farms within a 1-mile radius of city limits. “If we expect the city to grow we have to have reasonable setbacks,” he said, adding the council has not yet considered action on the issue.
Others were present to urge officials not to make ordinances too restrictive for the county in general.
“We could create a situation in which the property tax base doesn’t grow,” said Superintendent Chuck Aubry of Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley school district.
Developers representing three wind energy companies were also on hand to answer questions and offer input.
Andy Melka of E.ON Climate & Renewables, one of two companies developing wind farms east of Paxton, clarified his firm will not seek to place towers within a 1-mile square east of Stockhom Road and south of Route 9 due to the large number of homes in that area.
Most counties have an ordinance keeping wind towers 1,000 feet from an existing structure, according to Jeff Harris of Vision Energy, whose firm is developing a wind farm including parts of northern Ford County in the Kempton and Cabery area.
Increasing the setback to 1,500 feet would be “very, very restrictive to the point a wind farm would not be developed in an area,” Harris cautioned.
Only resident David Steiner expressed an opinion that he was opposed to any wind farm “at all” near the 18 acres he owns east of Paxton. He also believes the presence of a wind farm would deter future sale of his property.
By Jean Noellsch
20 June 2008
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