MORRISON – A Whiteside County committee today is expected to deal with the issue of whether to increase the required distance between houses and wind turbines.
The County Board’s Executive Committee decided last month to delay consideration of the setback until today. Before that, the Public Works Committee recommended increasing the setback from 1,400 feet to 1,600, which would make it the longest such distance in the state.
The Executive Committee doesn’t include the setback on today’s agenda, although officials confirmed that it’ll likely come up. The state’s attorney general advises government bodies to include issues under consideration on their agendas.
Executive Committee member Sue Britt, D-Morrison, said she’s in a “quandary” about the setback.
“It’s hard to know what to do because of the rights of farmers and nearby homeowners,” Britt said. “It’s a big issue. We could learn from other counties, their regulations and what happened. We really haven’t had too much discussion about it.”
Britt said an extra 200 feet wouldn’t make much of a difference.
She noted that the change would have to go through a public hearing because it involves revising an ordinance.
“If we’re going to go through a public hearing, it should be more than that [200 feet],” she said.
Whiteside County doesn’t have any wind farms now, although Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power is planning one for Whiteside, Lee and Bureau counties. It would be near Deer Grove, which has prompted the village to seek to regulate turbines within 1.5 miles of its boundaries.
Another Executive Committee member, Karen Nelson, D-Rock Falls, said the issue shouldn’t be bottled up in committee. It should be sent on to the full board, she said.
“I could go either way on the 200 feet,” she said.
Nelson said she was more concerned with the setback around Deer Grove. That issue has been up in the air. Some think the village, population 48, has the power to regulate turbines in the 1.5-mile area; others disagree because the village doesn’t have a zoning ordinance.
The county has asked the state’s attorney general to settle the issue.
“I’d like to see Deer Grove at least get a mile,” Nelson said.
Executive Committee member Bill McGinn, D-Sterling, was the only member of the Public Works Committee, which he heads, to vote against increasing the setback to 1,600 feet.
“I’m still at 1,400 feet,” he said Monday.
Board member Steve Wilkins, D-Morrison, said he doesn’t know how 200 extra feet would help. He said he wasn’t sure which way he would vote.
“I may hear something at the meeting one way or the other that may sway me,” he said.
He said the Public Works Committee has done much to study the wind energy issue. He said the views against turbines have come from basically the same five people at all the panel’s meetings.
The committee voted to increase the setback, but members said it was a compromise, not based on any evidence that it was the “magic number.”
The Whiteside County Board meets at 6:30 p.m. today in Room 117 at the County Courthouse, 400 N. Cherry St.
The committee is expected to consider changing the required distance between houses and turbines.
For an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings or more information, go to www.whiteside.org or call 815-772-5100.
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