MORRISON – Deer Grove’s mayor is calling for changes to Whiteside County’s ordinance regulating wind farms.
A top county official, in response, said revisions would require a public hearing. If neighboring counties are any guide, such a hearing could attract hundreds of people.
Deer Grove Mayor Al Thompson, who said he was representing only himself, told the county’s public works committee Tuesday that the county should increase the required distance between homes and wind turbines from 1,400 feet to 1.5 miles.
He also said the county needed to include sections in its ordinance for turbines’ effect on property values and wildlife, and that it should use bonding to make sure companies take down their turbines when they stop using them.
“Am I against them [wind farms]? I definitely am. I don’t want them. If we have them, I don’t want to see them,” Thompson said. “The County Board has to get on top of this.”
Stuart Richter, the county’s planning and zoning administrator, said increasing the setback distance to a mile and a half essentially would be saying that Whiteside County didn’t want any turbines.
“You wouldn’t find a spot where one could be located,” Richter said.
The 1,400-foot setback was one of the largest in the state when the county enacted its ordinance years ago. Most were 1,000 feet, he said.
As for issues such as wildlife, Richter said the ordinance requires that wind companies have special-use permits. Many issues would be handled during the permit application process, he said.
He said he had no opinion on the wind issue, noting that a public hearing was required for ordinance changes.
“There will be a deluge of proposed changes, and that’s fine,” Richter said.
Bill McGinn, the County Board’s vice chairman, said he didn’t have any biases on the wind issue. He said he had to hear both sides, adding that it would be wise for members to visit another county with wind farms.
He asked that Thompson put his concerns about the ordinance in writing.
The mayor said he would.
A couple of months ago, county officials revealed that Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Energy planned to extend a proposed wind farm for Bureau and Lee counties into Whiteside County, north of Deer Grove, population 48. An application is expected in the fall.
Deer Grove’s board of trustees, in response to the news, unanimously voted to regulate turbines within 1.5 miles of village limits. Deer Grove is 11 miles south of Rock Falls.
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