More than a dozen people voiced their views on wind farms to the Ogle County Board Tuesday.
The barrage of public opinion came after county board member Bill Welty, Chana, asked county board members to review the suggested changes made by the Wind Energy Conversion Systems (WECS) Subcommittee to the county ordinance regulating wind farms.
Welty chaired the WECS Subcommittee, which was formed in March of 2010 and met through last August to study the impact of commercial wind energy conversion systems and whether or not the current zoning ordinances should be made more stringent.
The county board placed a moratorium on wind farms last April through the end of 2010 while the wind farm ordinance was reviewed and possibly revised. In October, the board extended the moratorium through June 30 of this year.
Many of the people addressing the board are members of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, which staged a rally March 8 and again Tuesday in support of wind farms.
Union members carried signs and marched around the courthouse on both days.
Mark McCaffrey, a heavy equipment operator from Rochelle, said he has worked on various wind farms around the state.
He said wind farms would bring jobs to Ogle County and decrease the nation’s dependence on oil purchased from foreign countries.
Al Woodin, Polo, also a heavy equipment operator who has worked building wind farms, said each turbine adds approximately $10,000 to a community’s tax base and more than $5,000 to the farmer who has it on his property.
“If I have a chance to have one on my property I’ll have one or even two. That’s how strong I feel about it,” he said.
Peggy Ellison, rural Rochelle, urged the board to take its time to decide about wind farms.
“This isn’t only about money and jobs,” she said. “It’s about the health, safety, and well-being of all county residents,” she said.
Brian Duncan, Polo, A member of the WECS Subcommittee and also president of the Ogle County Farm Bureau, asked the board to remember that the recommendations were approved by the subcommittee by a 4 to 3 vote.
Kara Principe, an attorney for the Indiana-Illinois-Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracts, said the setback of 2,500 feet recommended by the WECS Subcommittee is excessive. The average setback is 1,000 feet she said.
She accused Welty of being biased at the subcommittee meetings and presenting only information to oppose wind farms.
Tom Smith, Kings, disagreed, saying Welty was only voicing his opinion at the meetings.
“We’re dealing with developers,” Smith said. “We’ve got to protect ourselves.”
Diane McNeilly, Rochelle, spoke in favor of wind mills from an environmental standpoint.
“Ogle County is what’s wrong with energy in this country today,” she said.
Coal, oil, and gas reserves are all running low worldwide, she said.
“We need energy. Wind is free. Ogle County can be part of the solution,” she said.
Prior to the public comments, Welty had asked board members to discuss the recommendations with their constituents and report back to the board by May with what they found out.
He said the recommendations are also posted on the county’s website at www.oglecounty.org, along with a public opinion poll.
Welty said the Planning & Zoning Committee will make changes to the recommendations after they get input from the public and then submit that to the county board for its approval.
Board member Pat Saunders, Polo, questioned why the finished recommendations won’t follow the usual procedures for zoning changes and go to the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Regional Planning Commission before going to the county board.
Welty said the full procedure is not required because the WECS Subcommittee’s recommendations are merely suggested standards, and not a text amendment to the zoning ordinance.
Board member Lyle Hopkins, Polo, said process suggested by Welty will mean the final vote will be delayed at least another two months.
“I think this is a stalling tactic. I think it’s time to lift the moratorium,” he said.
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