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Committee nears big wind issue; Panel to look at distance between homes, turbines

DIXON – A Lee County committee has been meeting for more than 4 months, reviewing the county’s wind energy regulations.

Yet the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals has steered clear of one of the hottest topics – the required distance between houses and wind turbines.

The agenda for today’s meeting includes the issue of setbacks – “if time allows.” The discussion on setbacks will follow unrelated zoning matters and the issues of wind farms’ noise and shadow flicker.

During its meetings, the board’s chairman, Ron Conderman, has decided to leave big issues such as setbacks to the end.

Now, the county requires that wind turbines be 1,400 feet away from houses. The largest setback in the state is 1,500 feet in McLean County.

Opponents of wind turbines want a much longer setback, arguing that the noise, vibrations and shadow flicker bother some people when the turbines are too close.

At a board meeting last month, epidemiologist Carl V. Phillips contended that there was “overwhelming evidence” that turbines hurt people’s health.

Phillips said he’s found through research that people up to 2 miles away from turbines develop such things as sleep, stress and mood disorders once wind farms go up.

He suggested a setback of between 1 and 2 miles.

Neil Palmer, who has been a spokesman for wind energy companies, said 1,400 feet is a reasonable setback. That’s a little more than a quarter mile.

He said the issues of noise and shadow flicker are tied to setbacks.

As for noise, Palmer said Illinois has one of the best laws dealing with it.

“Why do you need a local ordinance if you really have a good one at the state level?” he said. “The county can require that an applicant demonstrate with an expert third-party that they are meeting state law.”

Once the board completes its review, it will refer its recommendations to the Lee County Board, which has the final say.

To attend

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

The board will consider the issues of wind turbines’ noise, shadow flicker and setbacks, as time allows.

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