PRINCETON – The Bureau County Board has voted against going through the door which could have led to a temporary moratorium on wind farm development in the county.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Sondgeroth presented an ordinance which he said would “get the ball rolling” toward establishing a temporary moratorium on all new conditional use permit applications for wind farms. The temporary moratorium, which would have ended Sept. 30, would give the county time to assess the impact of wind farms on the county and to consider any needed amendments to the existing county zoning ordinances, Sondgeroth said.
According to Sondgeroth, the temporary moratorium process would take a couple months to complete, having to go through the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals and Zoning Committee, as well as public hearings, before returning to the full county board for approval or denial.
After Sondgeroth’s initial presentation, several board members questioned the process in which Sondgeroth brought the temporary moratorium recommendation to the board, beginning with Joe Bassetti who questioned why the proposal was coming from Sondgeroth and not from the entire Transportation Committee.
In giving his explanation, Sondgeroth said the Transportation Committee had directed him to talk with attorney Cheryl Kuzma, who has been working with the county on wind farm concerns. It was Kuzma who made the recommendation for the temporary moratorium to give the county time to study the impact of wind farms on the county and to address any other issues, including road agreements and decommissioning plans and residents’ complaints about interrupted television reception, shadow flickering and noise levels.
Sondgeroth did acknowledge and apologize for the proposal being a last minute decision, made after last week’s meeting with Kuzma.
Bassetti also questioned why a moratorium was needed in the first place, rather than just having the Zoning Committee and county board address the issues themselves. Even so, any moratorium recommendation should come from the Zoning Committee, he said.
Board member Laura Rose agreed, saying she didn’t oppose looking at the moratorium issue, but what she did object to was that the proper process was not followed in bringing the proposal to the board. The information was e-mailed out 24 hours before the meeting. She didn’t get the information until that evening. Some members of the Transportation Committee did not even know about the proposal, she said.
Board member Rob Pozzi also objected to the process of Sondgeroth bringing the moratorium proposal to the board. The individual committees should take care of their own responsibilities, he said.
“The Transportation Committee should take care of the roads agreements. The Zoning Committee should take care of the zoning ordinances. That’s the way our county’s supposed to be run,” Pozzi said. “I don’t think you should have one committee overstepping its bounds and going into other committees.”
Board member Mike Maynard also agreed, saying the proposed ordinance sounded like it was the work of two people, Kuzma and Sondgeroth.
In defending the need for a temporary moratorium, Sondgeroth said the wind industry is dynamic, and the county board needs to be able to adjust its agreements and codes as the technology evolves in order to protect the citizens of Bureau County for decades down the road.
“I want to make sure we have our ducks in a row and protect the people,” Sondgeroth said.
After about a 30-minute discussion, the board defeated Sondgeroth’s motion on a 6 to 15 vote, with Sondgeroth, Dale Anderson, Marsha Lilley, Jim Thompson, Gary Forristall and Marc Wilt casting the yes votes.
In opposition were Loretta Volker, Kristi Warren, Robert Albrecht, Ralph Anderson, Joe Bassetti, Joe Bertetto, Tom Dobrich, Jim Donarski, Deb Feeney, Mike Kohr, Mary Jane Marini, Mike Maynard, Bob McCook, Rob Pozzi, and Laura Rose. Board member Marshann Entwhistle abstained from Tuesday’s vote. Absent were board members John Baracani, Tom Giordano, Mark Pierson and Dan Rabe.
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