DIXON – A Lee County panel Tuesday unanimously recommended not to extend a moratorium on new wind farms.
The moratorium, enacted in September, ends next week.
The county board voted 20-4 in favor of the moratorium. But at its regular meeting Tuesday, the Properties Committee voted against continuing it.
The board has set up an ad hoc committee to revise the county’s wind farm ordinance; that group has yet to finish its work.
Resident Steve Robery said the committee hadn’t had any real discussions on the distance between turbines and homes, decommissioning of wind farms, noise or impact on property values.
There would be no harm in extending the moratorium, Robery said.
Board Chairman Jim Seeberg, however, said farmers should have the right to place wind turbines on their land and reap the profit.
“Are you going to pay my taxes?” he asked Robery.
Robery dismissed the chairman’s argument, saying the county had a duty to protect neighboring property rights.
County board member Tom Demmer agreed that zoning regulations should protect property rights, which he said they do.
The current ordinance is project-specific, so county officials have latitude on how to handle each farm so as to protect nearby landowners, Demmer said.
Robery said DeKalb County has a similar ordinance, and it resulted in a wind farm in the middle of a housing development.
John Nicholson, chairman of the Properties Committee, said that wouldn’t happen in Lee County.
“You have to put some faith in the people who are here to protect you,” Nicholson said.
Ad hoc committee member Mark Wagner of Franklin Grove said he was considering resigning from the eight-member panel, calling members biased and accusing them of not doing their homework.
The five members of the Zoning Board of Appeals are on the committee, as are Wagner; Sauk Valley Community College professor Alan Pfeifer, the developer and dean of its wind energy maintenance curriculum; and Keith Bolin, a Bureau County resident who works in the wind industry.
Wagner questioned why Bolin was even on the committee, given that he doesn’t live in Lee County and works for a wind farm company.
He also complained that ad hoc members didn’t take votes anymore on issues. Rather, they give suggestions, which are put into meeting minutes. Then the Zoning Board of Appeals, which will make the final changes to the ordinance, will review those minutes, officials said.
Wagner contended nearly all of the members are pro-wind industry, saying they don’t take seriously the fact that wind farms could transform much of the county into a rural industrial zone.
He said he wanted members to come more prepared and be more knowledgeable.
“I feel ganged up upon,” he said. “I’m all by myself up there. It’s too much for one person.”
Board member Marvin Williams said Wagner had been heard but that it appeared as if he didn’t like the reaction to his arguments.
“It sounds like you want people to agree with you,” Williams said. “How do you determine if they are knowledgeable? Do you give them a litmus test? You’re not going to get everyone to agree with you.”
Wind farm opponents are expected to air their grievances at next week’s county board meeting.
No applications for new wind projects are before the county, officials said.