Two neighboring Lee County villages are considering ordinances that would block industrial wind turbine developers from building within 1.5 miles of village boundaries.
Ashton and Franklin Grove are at the southern end of a proposed 50-turbine wind farm that would stretch from central Lee into Ogle County. Leaders in both villages say the ordinances are necessary to protect their chances for future growth.
“I think it’s our duty as public officials to protect ourselves within the 1.5-mile area,” said John Martinez, Ashton’s village board president.
The Ashton board is set to vote Monday on an ordinance that is nearly identical to one that Franklin Grove’s board shelved months ago.
Martinez said it isn’t a case of taking a stand against wind companies.
“Our stance is simply to do our duty to protect our potential development we may see one day,” he said.
Wind turbines can be nearly 400 feet from ground to blade tip. Allowing them close to existing municipal boundaries risks creating “economic dead zones” where no developer or commercial enterprise would want to build, Martinez said.
Over the long term, such dead zones could cost the village and surrounding schools more in lost tax revenue than they generated with wind turbine property taxes, Martinez said.
Both Ashton and Franklin Grove are exercising a provision in Illinois zoning law that extends a municipal government’s zoning authority to 1.5 miles beyond its boundaries.
Colorado-based wind farm developer RES-Americas has spent the past 2 years offering landowners in and around Ashton a yearly stipend to host a wind turbine.
About 15 miles south, in the village of Lee, Board President Richard Boris is lamenting his trustees’ failure to block a 149-turbine wind farm built last year by FPL Services.
Boris alerted Ashton and Franklin Grove to the “dead zone” concept after the FPL project came online early this year.
“I think the jury is still out on whether they’re good or bad,” Martinez said of wind farms. “We’re just trying to put ourselves in the driver’s seat.”
By blocking development now, the village can revisit wind turbine proposals on an individual basis.
“To me, it is a no-brainer to look out for … your development and infrastructure,” Martinez said.
Among the recent investments Martinez hopes to protect is a $1.5 million upgrade to water and sewer lines on the western end of the village, a project intended to help attract a residential or industrial developer.
Residents this week flocked to Ashton’s Mills-Petrie Gymnasium for a public hearing on the ordinance.
Representatives from RES said they weren’t invited, and project manager Brad Lila said he couldn’t comment on what impact the proposed ordinances might have or whether RES will be able to build in light of recent wind farm moratoriums imposed by both the Lee and Ogle county boards.
“With everything that’s going on politically in Lee and Ogle county, it’s really hard to know right now,” Lila said.
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