MORRISON – A Whiteside County Board member proposed giving small towns without zoning regulations the power to negotiate with wind energy companies.
But some of his colleagues disagreed with the idea at Tuesday’s monthly board meeting.
Member Jim Duffy, D-Sterling, proposed the board enact a policy that would require companies come to an agreement with unzoned, incorporated towns on placement of turbines within 1.5 miles of their boundaries.
Under the policy, the County Board would honor the agreements as part of its special-use permitting process.
Towns with zoning already have the right to regulate nearby turbines. But some officials believe that state law doesn’t grant the same authority to unzoned towns.
Whiteside County has two small villages without zoning – Deer Grove and Coleta.
A wind company is interested in setting up turbines near Deer Grove. Earlier this year, the village board voted to regulate turbines in the 1.5-mile area.
Last week, the board’s Executive Committee voted 4-3 against Duffy’s proposal. After the vote, Duffy said he might take the issue to the full board.
“We should give the same opportunity to unzoned communities that zoned communities have,” Duffy told the board Tuesday.
But board Chairman Tony Arduini, D-Rock Falls, said the county would be opening up to a lawsuit if it passed Duffy’s proposal.
“I don’t think it would be a legal policy,” he said. “The state doesn’t give them the opportunity. We shouldn’t, either.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Pat Liston, though, said the policy would pass legal muster.
Still, Arduini said he didn’t like the idea of making rules for one industry, calling it discrimination.
Member Steve Wilkins, D-Morrison, said he wanted to deal with the issue, asking for a roll call vote.
“We have beaten this to death,” he said.
Arduini agreed to Wilkins’ request.
But other members said the board couldn’t vote on the matter because it wasn’t on the meeting agenda.
So County Administrator Joel Horn suggested the board vote on laying over the issue for a month.
“You mean we have to go through this again?” Arduini said.
Many members protested having to do a roll call vote on laying over the issue a month. They preferred a voice vote on the controversial issue.
Wilkins withdrew his request for the roll call.
An overwhelming majority voted to lay over the issue to next month’s meeting.
Meanwhile, Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power continues to plan a wind farm for Whiteside, Lee and Bureau counties. Only a small fraction would be in Whiteside County. The turbines would be near Deer Grove, which is south of Rock Falls.
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