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County rejects ordinance changes

DANVILLE – No action was taken Thursday night to make changes to Vermilion County’s ordinance on wind farms.

The Vermilion County Board’s executive and legislation committee met on Thursday to discuss the results of a report by corporate counsel Bill Donahue into a number of concerns, complaints and allegations raised by a small number of residents regarding the wind farms and the county’s ordinance.

Darrell and Kim Cambron of rural Rankin have been the most consistently outspoken critics, raising concerns ranging from the 1,000-foot setback from a person’s property for wind turbines to issues of noise and shadow flicker.

Donahue’s report called the information the Cambrons provided “inconclusive” at best and “at worst simply borne out by looking at the real life experiences of other counties.”

“Basically, with regard to the Internet science materials, you can find an expert to say anything you want,” he said. “Nothing I found shows substantiation that this is an ultra-hazardous situation.”

The Cambrons attended the meeting and spoke out again. Darrell Cambron cited the potential for property values to go down in the area around where wind farms are built.

“The county needs to think about this if that’s the road it wants to go down,” he said, adding people “are not going to live in the middle of an industrial wind farm.”

The underlying problem is that the ordinance acts simply as a building code for the wind companies, telling them how to build the wind farms not if they can or can’t do it, according to the report. Vermilion County does not have zoning, which would allow a community to tell people what they can and can not do with their land.

“We cannot simply outlaw legal but unwanted businesses,” Donahue told the committee.

Donahue commented that in past years the county has seen potential mega-livestock farms move in. And those issues brought out people in droves to contest the issue.

“We’ve had two consistently maybe four people that don’t like this,” he said. “The majority hasn’t objected and is signed up.

“If you’re a democracy, you have to give weight to the majority,” he said.

In the end, District 6 County Board member John Alexander recommended the county consider a per turbine fee increase as well as look at an extension of the current property setback to 1,200 feet.

So far, one wind turbine project has earned the county’s approval while another remains on hold. The most recent project which has been approved calls for Invenergy Wind LLC to construct 104 wind turbines as part of the company’s California Ridge Wind Energy Project.

Donahue said a road use agreement with Vermilion County is currently being hammered out for that project.

The Hoopeston Wind Project, owned by GDF SUEZ Energy North America Inc., featured 40 wind turbines. However, the company asked to put the project on hold earlier this year with the county indicating the company had been looking for an upgrade to power lines to handle the electricity generated by the turbines. The $47,000 application fee paid to the county was put in escrow.

Vermilion County is being looked at for at least three other potential wind farms at this point.