DEER GROVE – The village of Deer Grove sought Whiteside County’s help to keep wind farms away – with no success so far.
So the village board took a step that it thinks will take care of the issue.
Earlier this month, the board passed a zoning ordinance. Such regulations were needed, some believe, to give Deer Grove the right to regulate wind turbines outside its boundaries.
In the spring, county officials revealed that a wind energy company was planning turbines near Deer Grove, 10 miles south of Rock Falls. Shortly after, the village board voted to regulate turbines within 1.5 miles of its limits.
But some officials, including Whiteside County’s zoning administrator, contended only towns with zoning ordinances have such powers.
The state’s attorney has referred the legal issue to the state’s attorney general, but has yet to get a response.
The village hired Franklin Grove Mayor Bob Logan as a consultant to draft an ordinance; he got around $1,300 for that project, he said, far less than what an attorney drafting the rules would have earned.
“With 48 people, they don’t need as broad of an ordinance as we [in Franklin Grove] do,” the mayor said. “We tried to draft it to the community as it exists and lay out a plan for future development.”
Logan, who has attended Lee County meetings on wind energy, said the Whiteside County Board didn’t address the issue for Deer Grove, so that’s why the village wanted zoning.
Deer Grove Mayor Al Thompson has been vocal against wind farms.
SDLqNot one person in this town wants these wind towers. About 95 percent of the farmers around here don’t want them,” Thompson said. “The county is not going to protect us. We’re going to have to protect ourselves.”
Reportedly, at least one farmer who has entered a contract with the wind energy company is within 1.5 miles of Deer Grove.
Last month, Whiteside County Board member Jim Duffy, D-Sterling, proposed giving small towns without zoning regulations the power to negotiate with wind companies.
His policy would have required companies to come to an agreement with unzoned, incorporated towns on placement of turbines within 1.5 miles. The rule was in response to Deer Grove’s situation.
Another member asked for a roll call vote. Many others objected.
In a voice vote, an overwhelming majority voted to lay over the issue until Tuesday’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, near Deer Grove.
Whiteside County has one other incorporated town without zoning – Coleta, population 164, which is a little more than 10 miles northwest of Sterling.
Coleta Mayor Sally Douglas said Thursday that the town board hadn’t discussed the wind issue. But she said she’s for wind energy, although she opposes government subsidies for it.
“I’d rather have a windmill in my backyard than a nuclear plant,” she said.
Another wind energy player, enXco, was planning a wind farm for Coleta, but officials say the company appears to have backed off, focusing on other projects.
The Whiteside County Board meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in its chambers at the Whiteside County Courthouse, 400 N. Cherry St. in Morrison.
The board is expected to reconsider a proposal to give incorporated, unzoned towns the power to negotiate with wind energy companies.
For an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings or more information, go to www.whiteside.org or call 815-772-5100.