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New zoning laws adopted for ultralights, wind turbines

Ultralight pilots and proponents of wind turbine use in Boone County are pleased with new zoning laws adopted Wednesday by the Boone County Board.

But the massive changes have drawn the ire of residents who say turbines and ultralight aircraft will infringe on residents who will suffer lower property values and noise pollution, among other problems. A public hearing is still required and a zoning map must be approved before the new rules take affect.

The new codes require newly-built wind turbines to be placed at least 1,000 feet from homes. The distance between turbines and property lines must be at least 1.1 times the height of the turbine.

“There are serious questions about placing a new tax-subsidized industry in the middle of existing agriculture industry. If we do not provide for adequate setbacks we are jeopardizing agriculture in Boone County,” said board member Dave Taylor.

Proponents say 2,000 foot setbacks would legislate wind farms out of existence in Boone County.

Pilots of ultralight aircraft will no longer need a special use permit to operate them, so long as five or fewer are stored on one’s rural property.

“It’s just great to be able to land in Boone County without being harassed or worried about being arrested,” said Jim Van Garsse, a flier for more than 20 years.

Ultralights don’t require a license to fly and while local authorities respond to accidents, only the Federal Aviation Administration can cite a pilot for hazardous flying. That’s one reason why residents Linda Bergmark and Erin Bunge say permits should be required for ultralights.

“We all have hobbies on our property,’ Bergmark said. “The problem is their hobby is coming right over our property.”

By Kevin Haas

Rockford Register Star

10 July 2008