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County wind energy ordinance will focus on small facilities

Lake County Board members are expected to vote this month on a new wind energy ordinance for unincorporated areas of the county, but large commercial wind farms will not be part of the discussion.

In February, the board decided against allowing large facilities such as wind farms in the county and to instead focus on smaller wind energy facilities.

The board will review the proposed wind energy ordinance during a committee of the whole meeting on Friday and then will vote on the proposed ordinance at the March 15 board meeting at the Lake County Building in Waukegan.

Over the past year, county staff have been working with the Regional Plan Commission, the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the County Board’s Planning, Building and Zoning Committee on drafting a wind energy ordinance for unincorporated areas.

The original draft by the Regional Plan Commission established regulations governing both large and small wind energy facilities.

But many County Board members felt large wind turbines – generally considered between 400 to 500 feet tall – were not appropriate in the county.

Board Chairman David Stolman said while large wind farms are common in agricultural counties downstate, the board did not feel large wind facilities were right for Lake County because of the more dense population.

The proposed ordinance would allow smaller wind energy facilities, including building-mounted and tower-mounted turbines, of up to 175 feet in height as an accessory use to residential or non-residential uses. Lake County senior planner David Husemoller said the county board is considering an amendment that would increase the maximum allowable height for a small wind energy facility to 200 feet.

The County Board’s decision to exclude large wind facilities from the ordinance could negatively impact one applicant’s plan to build a wind farm in northern Lake County.

Sexton Winton Power, LLC of Bannockburn, has proposed building a wind farm with 10 large turbines on approximately 380 acres of unincorporated land east of 1-94 near Russell Road.