WALNUT – Protesters of the proposed Walnut Ridge wind farm brought their arguments to the Walnut Village Board Monday night.
“The village of Walnut needs to look at their future, and their future isn’t going to be as bright if they’ve got these within a mile and a half of their village limits,” said local resident Ron Pierson. “I don’t care if you’re for them or against them, whether you think the tax money’s going to come in or not, it’s about protecting what Walnut’s future is going to be.”
On April 14, after weeks of debate and public input, the Bureau County Board voted to grant three-year extensions for the existing conditional use permits for the 150-turbine Walnut Ridge wind farm. Pierson had spoken at one of those meeting, asking the board to let the permits expire, requiring the developers to restart the process.
On Monday, Pierson was at Walnut to ask the village board to protect its 1.5 mile setback. Twelve of the turbines permitted by the county board would be located within 1.5 miles of the village’s boundaries, with some as close as 750 feet.
Pierson discussed the problems with shadow flicker and noise at the Big Sky wind farm just east of Walnut, and said the county board wasn’t listening.
“They haven’t cared to listen,” he said. “You guys can at least look out for the village of Walnut.”
Pierson questioned why the Walnut Ridge developers haven’t visited the Walnut Village Board.
“Do you guys matter at all to them? Isn’t it terribly important to them that they get you behind them right now?” he said.
Pierson said he knows local schools need money like the wind farms are supposed to bring into the area, but he warned the state would simply give less to make up for the extra money the wind turbines would bring in.
“It’s going to be an equal draw,” he said. “They’re not going to come out ahead in the deal.”
Pierson urged the board to fight to make Walnut Ridge give up the 12 turbines.
“Please take the time to help preserve Walnut’s quality of life well into the future,” he said.
Also speaking was Rick Porter, the Rockford lawyer representing the Gerdes family in their efforts against the Walnut Ridge project.
Porter recapped the events with the conditional use permits and said the 12 turbines are in Walnut’s jurisdiction, not the county’s.
Porter said the village has a strong case because the state statues guaranteeing the 1.5 mile jurisdiction were in place before the county approved the conditional use permits in 2008. In addition, Walnut wasn’t notified when the county first granted the conditional use permits.
Porter urged the board to send letters to Walnut Ridge and the county board, saying the village doesn’t want any turbines within 1.5 miles.
“Even though they don’t have jurisdiction, you haven’t told anybody,” Porter said.
Porter also invited the village to join in the litigation the Gerdes’ plan to bring or file its own appeal. Any appeal must be filed within 90 days of when the conditional use permits were extended.
The final speaker was Al Thompson, Deer Grove village president.
In March, Deer Grove’s board of trustees voted unanimously to regulate wind turbines within 1.5 miles of its limits in response to news that a proposed wind farm could be expanded near the village.
“The county doesn’t care about villages,” Thompson said. “We protected ourselves.”
Thompson said it appeared Walnut could be surrounded by wind turbines.
“You’d better protect yourself with a mile and a half because the county will not do that,” he said.
Thompson said he understood that landowners have rights.
“But I like to think we live in the United States of America where the majority rules,” he said.
The board took no action on the comments, but after the meeting, Village President Robert Brasen said the board will discuss the issue when all the trustees could be present.
“We are going to have to bring this up for discussion on how we want to proceed,” he said.
Brasen said the board has had concerns but had been waiting to see what the county was going to do about the extensions of the permits.
Now board members know.
“Now we’re going to start taking more action,” Brasen said. “This is something we need to get put to bed. We need to get some resolution on this.”
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