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Wind energy group wants further setback distance in Adams County  

Credit:  WGEM, www.wgem.com 11 October 2011 ~~

A group working to build a wind farm in Adams County could soon be hitting a road block.

Global Winds Harvest is moving forward on their plans to build a farm in eastern Adams County, but one group is asking the Adams County Board to make some changes to the current wind ordinance first.

The board already created an industrial wind ordinance a year ago, but since then the Advocates For Responsible Energy Development (ARED), has been reviewing wind farms in other areas and talking with residents living near them.

“We’re gradually learning more and more about the ins and outs of industrial wind complexes and all we’re asking the Adams County Board to do is re-look at it and re-evaluate it based on more and current information,” John Gebhardt, ARED spokesperson, said.

ARED wants the setback distance for a wind turbine to be changed from one-quarter mile from a home to one half-mile.

“We’re discovering that they create noise, they make it hard for people to live next to them,” Gebhardt said. “So why not be responsible and set that distance further away now than have some Adams County residents have to suffer with problems we already know that other people have got.”

ARED is also asking the Board to include a property value guarantee in the ordinance. Gebhardt says wind turbines can lower property value up to 25-percent.

 

The following is the proposal from ARED:

In response to the recent announcement by Global Winds Harvest that they are moving forward with their plans to build a wind farm in East Adams County, the Advocates for Responsible Energy Development (ARED) respectfully ask the Adams County Board to review and modify certain aspects of the Adams County Wind Ordinance before a permit is submitted and it is too late to make changes needed to protect the public’s interests. 

 

Our suggestions and reasoning follow:

 

1.  Increase the setback distance to 1/2 mile from non-participant’s property line.  Currently the setback distance in Adams County is 1320 feet (one-quarter mile), which is the distance that Acciona representatives said, in their presentation at the Adams County hearing, that “they could live with.”  That company has already pulled out of the project, but Adams County residents are the ones who will have to live for the next 40-50 years with this setback distance in the ordinance once you approve a permit under those terms. 

 

Several months ago, 1320 feet was one of the longer setbacks in Illinois.  However, due to negative experiences in other parts of the state and nation, setback distances have been steadily increasing.  For example, just across Adams’ County’s eastern border, Brown County recently voted in a setback distance of 2000 feet to better protect their residents.  Two Illinois counties with 1500 foot setbacks are now considering lengthening theirs now that they already have experienced wind farms there.  In North Carolina, their state Health official, after engaging in a detailed study of the most recent health data, has begun to push for a statewide 4900 foot (1500 meter) residential setback.  Most European countries, after having several years of experience living with wind energy, have increased their setbacks to a mile or more. 

 

The current setback of 1320 feet simply will not be adequate to protect Adams County residents.  To leave it unchanged is to submit Adams County residents to an experiment that has already been conducted in many other places with negative consequences. 

 

2.  Give all incorporated towns in Adams County a setback of 1.5 miles from their border.  Even though there is an Illinois statute that allows each town to do this for themselves, this change in the Adams County ordinance would set the “default” at protection for towns instead of forcing towns to enact legislation to get it.  Once it is included in the County Ordinance, if a town board chooses to make exceptions, it is still free to do that.  However, they will be acting with full knowledge instead of being caught by surprise as Camp Point, Clayton, and Golden were in the most recently proposed development.

 

Enacting this protection individually can be a lengthy and costly legal process, particularly for small towns.  Giving this control to each small town council by “default” allows them to make changes intentionally instead of having massive changes put on them unknowingly, and likely, unwillingly, by a secretive company who has not consulted with them.  If the company wants to place turbines up close to their town, then the town council will be invited to the bargaining table and become a meaningful part of the process for the good of their community.

 

3.  Require an applying wind company to offer all residential property owners within 2 miles of a turbine a property value guarantee.  A Property Value Guarantee (PVG) is a reasonable tool that is already being used in other areas of Illinois to remove the risk of catastrophic financial loss from non-participants, and place the risk where it is appropriate–on the company who proposes to surround residential homes with an industrial development.  Many wind representatives argue that there is no loss in property value by living near a wind turbine, and if that debated theory is correct, then there is no risk to them in offering a fairly-crafted property value guarantee (such as the one already submitted to Adams County by Mike McCann, a nationally-known specialist in the area of the impacts of industrial developments on nearby residential property).  To fail to include this provision means that the company, and by extension, the County Board, is forcing Adams County residents to bet our homes that the wind company’s theory about property values is true.  That is not a fair or just burden to place on any citizen.

 

For the company, if their theory is true, and any home they are forced to purchase is still worth what it was worth before, then the company will buy it at fair market value and be able to resell it, perhaps for a profit.  But if property values indeed decline near wind turbines, or even become unmarketable, then this provision will protect Adams County non-participants from losing their home without any reasonable recourse.

 

4.  For grievances that cannot be worked out between a citizen and the company, make the arbitration process binding for the wind company.  We are concerned that the grievance process outlined in the Adams County Wind Ordinance ends with arbitration that is non-binding on the company.  It is not fair or reasonable to expect individuals who stand to lose their home and major investment to take on an international company in court to get justice; the Wind Ordinance should make the judgments of a fair and impartial arbitrator binding on the company, offering a level and affordable playing field for those residents who cannot afford to take an international company to court. 

Source:  WGEM, www.wgem.com 11 October 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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