DIXON – Lee County homeowners near new wind farms may get protection if they suffer losses when they sell their homes.
By a 4-1 vote, the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday approved a home seller protection program.
The proposal goes to the Lee County Board as part of a number of revisions to the county’s wind energy ordinance.
The County Board likely won’t consider the changes until early next year.
The home seller program would apply to property owners within 1 mile of turbines. And the protection would last 10 years after wind turbines’ building permits are issued.
The proposal details a complex appraisal process, in which the homeowner and the wind energy company each choose a licensed appraiser. In the end, if appraisers find that a home sold for less because it was near turbines, the wind energy company would pay the difference.
At Zoning Board meetings, participants have debated whether wind farms cause nearby property values to drop. The wind industry says there is no evidence that turbines hurt property values; its opponents take the opposite view.
As part of the proposal, the board included a requirement for a good neighbor program for homeowners within a mile. The companies must come to an agreement with neighbors about regular payments.
In other words, residents could get regular payments and home seller protection.
John Martin of Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power asked the board to include an opt-out provision for the home seller program.
He said his company would be able to offer more to homeowners under the good neighbor program if they could waive the home seller protection. Under the good neighbor policy, he said, there is more financial certainty for wind energy companies.
Mainstream has had experience with good neighbor policies, but not home seller protection programs, Martin said. The company is planning a wind farm for Lee, Whiteside and Bureau counties.
Franklin Grove Village President Bob Logan, who often has been at odds with wind energy companies, agreed with the opt-out provision. He also thought 10 years was a good limit for the home seller program. Others argued against a limit.
“It seems like you’re saying, ‘If you’re going to get out, get out in 10 years,’” Franklin Grove resident Steve Robery said. “I don’t understand the limit.”
Some disputed limiting the home seller and good neighbor programs to those within a mile, citing studies that say turbines can affect people up to 2 miles away.
“I think 1 mile is irresponsible,” Franklin Grove resident Mark Wagner said.
Zoning Board member Tom Fassler agreed. As a result, he was the only member to vote against the home seller and good neighbor proposal. Voting for it were Ron Conderman, Craig Buhrow, Glen Bothe and Mike Pratt.
Also Thursday, the board discussed the requirements for what to do with abandoned wind farms. Officials don’t want the county to be littered with unused turbines.
The meeting’s participants, including Mainstream’s representatives, agreed that some type of decommissioning plan was needed and that money needed to be in place at some point for such a process.
The board took no action on decommissioning, but may do so at its next meeting, which is Dec. 1.
The board has been meeting twice a month since the summer considering changes to the county’s ordinance.
The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals meets at 7 p.m. Dec. 1 in the County Board meeting room on the third floor of the Old County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St., Dixon.
Go to www.countyoflee.org or call 815-288-3643 for more information.
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