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Panel to discuss wind farm setback – at last

DIXON – Last, but not least.

After months of meetings, the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals is expected to address what many consider the most important wind farm issue – the distance between homes and turbines.

The board has addressed other issues in drafting a proposed wind energy ordinance. Earlier this month, it voted on noise regulations for wind farms.

Board Chairman Ron Conderman said he expects the board to discuss the setback distance at its meeting Thursday. After that, he said, the board may need another meeting to double-check its work over the last half year.

“I hope there’s a big light at the end of the tunnel,” Conderman said.

After the Zoning Board gets its work done, it will refer the proposed ordinance to the County Board, which has the final say.

The county’s current setback distance is 1,400 feet, which is a little more than a quarter mile, the same as Whiteside County’s.

Some people have said that’s too close. At a recent meeting, Zoning Board member Tom Fassler suggested a mile.

Wind industry supporters say longer distances would effectively stop construction of turbines in the county.

Jim Timble, a Lee County resident who has attended many Zoning Board meetings, said 1.25 miles would be a good setback.

“The jury is no longer out,” he said. “The evidence is there on the health effects and property value effects.”

During the Zoning Board’s review, a scientist testified that the setback be between 1 and 2 miles. He contended that turbines’ noise, vibrations and shadow flicker cause people to develop sleep, stress and mood disorders.

Lee County’s debate appears to be headed toward a uniform setback distance. In Ogle County, officials seem to agree that noise standards should dictate the distance, which could change depending on topography and other factors in a specific area.

Go the distance

The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals will meet at 7 p.m. Friday in the County Board meeting room on the third floor of the Old County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St., in Dixon. The board is expected to discuss what it should establish as the legal distance between turbines and homes. For more information, go to www.countyoflee.org or call the zoning office at 815-288-3643.