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Wind meeting goes to the birds

DIXON – For more than an hour, a Lee County panel on Thursday debated how to deal with the problem of birds and bats killed by wind turbines.

Ron Conderman, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, kept trying to move to the next issue in the panel’s review of a model wind energy ordinance. But members Tom Fassler and Mike Pratt wanted to make a decision.

The model ordinance would require that wind companies catalog and annually report birds and bats killed by turbines.

Fassler, however, wanted the county to have the power to get a third party to annually document the problem – at the wind company’s expense.

“I don’t believe everything the windmill people are saying,” he said, suggesting that turbines could kill bald eagles. “We want to make sure the county can hire someone anytime it wants to.”

John Martin of Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Energy, which is planning a wind farm in Lee, Whiteside and Bureau counties, said the cost would be exorbitant to have a study without any documented need. He said companies would be fine with paying for studies if the state Department of Natural Resources suggested there was a problem.

Fassler said the state wouldn’t police all the wind farms. “I think we should do it locally,” he said.

Conderman said Fassler’s idea was unreasonable.

Bob Logan, the mayor of Franklin Grove, suggested giving the county the power to hire an expert on an as-needed basis to document the problem of turbines killing birds and bats.

Fassler agreed to that idea. So did the others, but Conderman didn’t take a vote.

Thursday’s meeting was probably the most contentious since the board started meeting on the wind ordinance a couple of months ago.

At one point, Fassler said he was tired of Conderman’s comments. The two men are the polar opposites on the five-member panel – Conderman often taking the wind industry’s side and Fassler calling for more regulation.

One member, Glen Bothe, hasn’t commented during the discussions. Another, Craig Buhrow, says very little.

In its review, Conderman has passed over some of the more controversial sections of the ordinance – the required setback between homes and wind turbines, noise and shadow flicker.

He promises the board will get to those issues at the end of the process.

Near the end of Thursday’s meeting, Susie Miller of Ashton asked why the board was delaying consideration of the bigger issues.

To attend

The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals meets at 7 p.m. Sept. 1 in the County Board meeting room on the third floor of the Old County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.

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

Fassler responded that the issues of shadow flicker and noise are closely related to the setback. The current setback is 1,400 feet, which Fassler wants to increase.

The board will continue its review in two weeks.

The review is expected to last several months. The County Board will have the ultimate say on a wind energy ordinance.