PRINCETON – The Bureau County Zoning Committee will make no recommendation on whether the Walnut Ridge wind farm conditional use permits should be extended.
That decision follows Thursday’s split vote by the Zoning Board of Appeals to deny the request by Walnut Ridge developers to extend the permits until Dec. 31, 2014.
On Monday, the Zoning Committee met to review the extension request and testimony given in about nine hours of public hearings on the proposed extension. Bureau County State’s Attorney Pat Herrmann told the committee members their options were to agree with the Zoning Board of Appeals and recommend denying the extension; to disagree and recommend granting the petition; or to pass it on to the county board with no recommendation.
A motion by Marsha Lilley to pass the question to the county board with no recommendation failed on a 2-5 vote, with only Lilley and Ralph Anderson voting in favor.
A second motion by Joe Bassetti to recommend extending the permits then died for lack of a second.
When no more motions were made, Zoning Officer Kris Donarski asked Herrmann what that meant. Herrmann said the issue would pass on to the county board without a recommendation, just as had been proposed in Lilley’s failed motion. The county board will consider the extension request at its next meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 14.
The Zoning Committee then heard from Karen House of Edison Mission Group, the owners of the Big Sky wind farm near Ohio. House was present to address the 19 complaints that have been filed regarding television reception, and 12 complaints each filed on noise and shadow flicker issues with the project.
House said she knew some of the residents were frustrated with the amount of time it was taking to resolve their complaints, and apologized for any delays.
House would not say definitely there were any noise problems, but said a study showed that under certain conditions, excessive noise might be generated sometimes in the evening hours.
House also discussed a confidentiality agreement the residents had been sent. Many residents complained the letter was a “gag order,” which House denied. Although she said the confidentiality agreement was common practice in her business, she said residents would not be required to sign the agreement in order to have their complaints resolved.
House said representatives would be in the area next week to meet with landowners, and those representatives had the authority to offer monetary settlements to the residents.
Money was the primary mitigant for the problems, although House said other mitigants could include landscaping or interior screens.
There was also another option.
“Curtailing of the turbine could be the ultimate mitigant,” she said.
House was then asked if the company had ever quit using an existing turbine.
“Not to my knowledge,” she said.
At the conclusion of the meeting, several members of the public spoke. Donarski asked them to keep their comments to five minutes, and to focus on new testimony rather than issues previously discussed.
Deb Anderson provided photographs to the committee, and said the noise study did not accurately measure all of the noise.
“The information given tonight was incorrect,” she said. “When you guys give them direction, they still do not listen.
Kendall Guither also disputed several arguments in favor of wind farms. He said the monetary incentive was attractive, but that most of the jobs were only temporary, and government bodies could become reliant on money that might not be permanent.
Guither said it was unfair to erect the wind turbines in an existing neighborhood, and to ask residents to eliminate shadow flicker with light-blocking blinds.
“I didn’t move into this house 32 years ago to live in a cave,” he said.
Roger Gillan told the committee of plans to construct more turbines near Zearing, and said wind developers had pegged Bureau County as an “easy” county.
“We’ve got to get this right,” he said. “You guys have the power to correct this.”
Deanna Wilt said there were studies about the impact on wind turbines for every creature from birds to turtles, but no studies on how shadow flicker impacts humans.
Wilt said the only way to resolve the problem was to let the Walnut Ridge permits expire, and then let the company begin the permitting process again, but dealing with any negative impact.
“I just would like to see it done right,” she said.
Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding