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Alerting people to turbines

DIXON – When a wind energy company wants to put up turbines, who should get word of the plans?

On Tuesday, the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals debated that issue. Now, Lee County’s wind energy ordinance requires that all bordering property owners be informed.

But some members of the zoning board suggested strengthening that requirement to include all landowners within a half-mile of the boundaries of parcels with planned turbines.

“They should be notified,” member Tom Fassler said. “I don’t think it’ll be that many more parcels.”

The board’s chairman, Ron Conderman, said those within a half-mile would find out what’s going on anyway.

The board was basing its discussion on a proposed wind ordinance in Ogle County, which includes the half-mile requirement.

Conderman and others agreed to keep the half-mile rule in the board’s proposal for the time being.

John Martin of Mainstream Renewable Energy, which is planning a wind farm in Lee, Bureau and Whiteside counties, asked the board to consider giving companies some flexibility in the sizes of their turbines. The firms could end up installing smaller ones, he said.

Member Mike Pratt said he didn’t want to give such flexibility.

“If there’s a substantial change, they should reapply,” he said. “The size needs to be well-defined. We don’t need to know the actual model, but I do care how big they are.”

Conderman and others said the ordinance should give companies a maximum size.

One resident asked the board to require companies to include their analysis of shadow flicker when they turn in their applications for permits.

The members agreed with the idea. They also said they wanted an analysis of turbines’ noise, too.

The board is going through the Ogle County proposal line by line, and it is taking public comment at any point during the process, limiting each person to 5 minutes.

That’s a far cry from the previous ad hoc committee on wind energy, of which Conderman also was chairman. That panel banned public input. The attorney general recently determined that the prohibition violated the state Open Meetings Act.

The zoning board is meeting twice a month while reviewing the wind ordinance. Its work is expected to last several months.

The board’s recommendations are expected to go to the full 28-member County Board.

In Whiteside County, the county Public Works Committee is planning to start reviewing its wind energy ordinance this month.

Whiteside County Board Vice Chairman Bill McGinn, D-Sterling, attended the Lee County meeting Tuesday. He also is chairman of the Public Works Committee.

To attend

The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals will meet at 7 p.m. July 21 in the County Board meeting room on the third floor of the Old County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.

Lee County is basing its review on a proposed wind energy ordinance in Ogle County.

For more information, go to www.countyoflee.org or call the zoning office at 815-288-3643.