For the second meeting in as many months, the Ogle County Board heard a barrage of public opinion Tuesday about wind farms.
Most of the 21 people who addressed the board voiced their support for wind power and urged the board not to over-regulate wind energy projects.
The public comments came after the board extended a year-long moratorium on wind farms until Sept. 1 or until the board takes action on pending regulations, whichever happens first.
The ban on wind farms has been in effect since April 2010, when the board decided further study was needed, and formed a Wind Energy Conversion Systems (WECS) Subcommittee.
The subcommittee met from April until August of 2010 to study the impact of commercial wind energy conversion systems and whether or not the current zoning ordinances should be made more stringent.
It came up with a set of suggested regulations that has provoked controversy over the rights of property owners on both sides of the issue.
Tuesday night, Brian Duncan, Polo, a member of the WECS Subcommittee and also president of the Ogle County Farm Bureau, said the real issue is property rights.
He said that with the half-mile setbacks dictated by the subcommittee’s recommendations, property use would be dictated by neighbors.
“It’s about choice and control. Who has the choice and who has the control,” he said. “You are taking my property rights but kindly giving me the right to buy them back from my neighbors. I love my neighbors, but it’s my property.”
Property rights were also on Berniece Soresie’s mind.
Soresie told the board that she owns property in Maryland Station and the farmers around her are talking about putting up wind turbines.
“When I walk out my door, they will be the first thing I see,” she said.
Pat Carroll, who lives near Rochelle, agreed.
She said the windmills in nearby Lee and DeKalb Counties are too concentrated and create too many bright lights.
“I guess I just don’t really want it in my backyard,” Carroll said.
She said she understands that the county could use the revenue that wind farms may bring.
“But there’s got to be a better way,” she said.
Rick Nelson, Mt. Morris, a farmer and Farm Bureau member, urged the board to allow wind energy to come into the county.
He said the revenue from the windmills will help not only farmers, but also taxing bodies including school districts and the county.
“What has been the backbone of Ogle County but agriculture?” Nelson said. “Let’s not abandon it.”
Dan Cox, Leaf River, agreed that the potential revenue is much needed, but said he is also concerned that the noise regulations on windmills in the subcommittee’s recommendations could lead to more regulations on farming in general.
“Corn dryers make more noise. Are we going to regulate those, too?” he asked.
David Whitmore talked about criticism of the government subsidies paid to wind energy companies.
“I’d rather that my tax dollars be spent on wind farm subsidies than cleaning up oil spills or stopping nuclear plant meltdowns,” he said.
Board chairman Jim Barnes assured the audience of approximately 120 that the subcommittee’s recommendations will be carefully considered before they are approved or rejected by the county board.
Three committees will consider the recommendations before the county board votes on them.
Zoning Admininstrator Mike Reibel said like any other text amendment to county zoning ordinances, they will be considered first by the Regional Planning Commission and then go to the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
The ZBA will hold public hearings and will allow sworn testimony from anyone who wishes to speak.
“The ZBA can and may modify the recommendations,” Reibel said.
After the ZBA, the recommendations will go to the Planning and Zoning Committee, and lastly to the county board for the final decision.
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