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No changes to wind farm ordinance

OREGON – After almost 2 years of lengthy discussions and sometimes heated debates, the Ogle County Board Tuesday decided not to tighten wind farm restrictions on noise, setbacks and shadow flicker.

The vote on the text amendment to the county ordinance was 11-11. A three-fourths majority of the 24-member board, or 18 votes, was needed to OK the changes. Only 22 members attended.

Board member Max Baumgardner, of Franklin Grove, said he would vote for the stricter regulations based on the number of letters he has received from county residents and has seen in local newspapers, the majority of which favored the tighter limits.

Board chairman Jim Barnes, of Oregon, said he received 85 letters from residents who also wanted tighter restrictions.

Board member Pat Saunders, of Polo, said she, too, received many such letters, but, “when it comes to zoning, by state statute, our vote is to be based on sworn testimony” given at the Zoning Board of Appeals hearings.

That board voted 5-0 to recommend a text amendment that then was tightened up by the Supervisor of Assessments, Planning & Zoning Committee. “It’s not clear what the basis was for the changes,” Saunders said.

Board member Lyle Hopkins, of Polo, said no matter what, wind energy companies must apply for a special-use permit and go through the permitting process, including hearings before the ZBA.

“By defeating this issue, we aren’t giving carte blanche to windmills,” Hopkins said.

Zoning Administrator Mike Reibel agreed, adding that “conditions can be developed and applied to that special use.”

In March 2010, the county board appointed a Wind Energy Conversion Systems subcommittee to study standards for wind farms and recommend changes to the county zoning ordinance.

The subcommittee met for several months and compiled its recommendations into the text amendment, which then went to the ZBA and APZ for consideration.

Also Tuesday, board member Bob DeArvil, of Chana, made a motion to extend an existing moratorium on wind farms until Dec. 31 of this year.

The board placed a 3-month moratorium on wind farms in April 2010, then extended it several times.

It ends Feb. 29.

With the threatened loss of federal grants and funding for wind farms, he is concerned that wind energy companies may try to rush the process in order to get started while the money is still available, DeArvil said.

“Let’s let the ZBA and the Planning & Zoning Committee do their jobs,” Hopkins said.

Board member Rich Gronewold, of Forreston, said it was time to resolve the matter.

“I’m not a big proponent of wind farms,” he said. “But I think it’s time to face the issue.”

DeArvil’s motion was defeated, also 11-11.

The county board granted a special-use permit in to the Baileyville Wind Farm in Maryland and Leaf River townships in December 2005. Progress came to a halt the following month when lawsuits were filed against it in state and federal courts.

Those lawsuits have been resolved, and an Apex Wind Energy spokesman said in November that construction is expected to begin this spring.

How they voted

Two motions – one for stricter regulations on wind farms and another to extend a moratorium on wind farms – failed 11-11 at Tuesday’s Ogle Count Board meeting.

Board members voted identically on both:

Yes: Max Baumgardner, Larry Boes, Bob DeArvil, Kim Gouker, Dan Janes, Mel Messer, Ashley Simms, Bill Welty, Paul White, Dennis Williams and Jim Barnes.

No: Jason Bauer, Dorothy Bowers, Bobbie Colbert, John Finfrock, Rich Gronewold, Lyle Hopkins, Fred Horner, Skip Kenney, Lynne Kilker, Pat Saunders and Kim Stahl.

Absent: Marcia Heuer and Maggie Nye.