December 16, 2011

Official lashes out at wind firms; Turbines’ noise, shadow flicker addressed Thursday

BY DAVID GIULIANI, 16 December 2011

DIXON – Tom Fassler, a member of the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals, had had enough Thursday.

For 6 months, he and four other board members have been considering changes to the county’s wind energy ordinance.

Fassler has often been in the minority calling for stricter rules. And, as he points out, he lives among turbines.

At Thursday’s meeting, Fassler, a farmer like the others, took his colleagues to task.

“You don’t have any respect for my opinion,” he told the board, pounding the meeting table.

Then he pointed to the representatives of a wind energy company on the opposite side of the room.

“Those windmill people don’t live by the windmills. They want to put them in the county, but they don’t live by them,” he said.

His statements came a few minutes after the board voted on rules for shadow flicker. The board approved restricting turbine-caused shadow flicker to 10 hours a year.

A representative of Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power, which is planning a three-county wind farm, recommended 30 hours annually.

An audience member presented literature from Mainstream that says it could design wind farms without causing shadow flicker problems for neighbors.

“With a properly planned wind farm, there is no reason for anyone to be sitting in their home to be affected by shadow flicker,” the literature states. “No home will suffer shadow flicker – we commit to plan around this issue.”

Mainstream’s John Martin said that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be any shadow flicker. But he said wind energy companies have the means to control it.

Fassler said 30 hours was an “awful lot.” He suggested the hours of shadow flicker be “minimal to nothing.”

The board voted 4-1 in favor of allowing 10 hours a year. Fassler voted no.

The panel also took up the issue of wind farms’ noise. Member Mike Pratt wanted a broad set of rules so that the county had maximum flexibility, but some members of the audience called for specific decibel levels in the ordinance.

A proposal under consideration would require wind energy companies to get third-party engineers to evaluate the effects of turbines’ noise on neighbors before construction and after.

Fassler called for stricter rules.

“Sound is very elusive. You don’t really have an opinion unless you live near it [wind farm]. It’s very obnoxious after awhile,” he said.

He also said the county’s handling of shadow flicker and noise should depend on the required distance between turbines and houses. Now, the setback is 1,400 feet – the same as in other nearby counties.

The board delayed action on noise regulations, but it began discussion on the setback distance.

The board’s chairman, Ron Conderman, recommended keeping the current 1,400 feet, a little more than a quarter-mile.

Fassler, however, suggested a mile, which he said would require wind farms to negotiate with everyone in that area. Neighbors shouldn’t have to negotiate after wind turbines are up, he said.

The board decided to resume its discussion on the setback distance at its Dec. 29 meeting.

After the board finishes its review of wind energy rules, the ordinance will go to the Lee County Board, which has the final say.

To attend

The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals next meets at 7 p.m. Dec. 29 in the County Board meeting room on the third floor of the Old County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St., Dixon.

The board will discuss the distance between wind turbines and houses.

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

URL to article: