DIXON – Larry Gerdes says he spent thousands of dollars for an attorney to draft a proposed Lee County ordinance regulating wind farms and attend county meetings.
But the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals hasn’t voted on the proposal yet. Gerdes, who owns Friesland Farms in Lee County, said the board has a legal duty to do so.
Since the summer, the five-member board has been drafting a new wind energy ordinance. It passed the finished product last week, sending it the County Board. One member, Tom Fassler, dissented.
The ordinance keeps the same required distance between homes and turbines – 1,400 feet. It includes regulations for shadow flicker and a program to protect the values of nearby homes.
Gerdes’ proposal – drafted by Rockford attorney Rick Porter – is, in general, much more restrictive. It has a setback of 1.25 miles and bans turbines from exceeding 5 decibels over background noise.
The zoning board plans to address Gerdes’ proposal – known as a text amendment – at its meeting Thursday.
“Over a year ago, they [county officials] suggested that I could provide a text amendment. I did all kinds of research on health issues, siting issues, what other states were doing,” Gerdes said. “They never gave me any indication what they would use it for.”
Ron Conderman, the zoning board’s chairman, declined to comment.
Porter attended last week’s meeting, but Gerdes said the attorney wouldn’t be at Thursday’s.
“I can’t afford to pay him to attend every meeting,” Gerdes said.
The zoning board held a hearing on Gerdes’ proposal months ago. Porter has attended a few meetings since.
During a January meeting, Porter noted it seemed as if only representatives of a wind energy company, Mainstream Renewable Power, had a copy of proposed noise regulations that the zoning board was discussing.
He was right. Mainstream, which is planning a wind farm for Lee, Whiteside and Bureau counties, acknowledged that it was provided text for the proposal and that it received its copy just before the meeting.
Porter asked for a recess in the meeting, so he and others could get a copy. The zoning board didn’t answer him.
Franklin Grove Village President Bob Logan, who has regularly attended zoning board meetings, criticized the board after last week’s meeting.
“It makes no sense to discuss the Gerdes amendment after they already voted on their own botched attempt at an amendment,” Logan said in an email.
He said the zoning board didn’t give due process to Gerdes and supporters of the proposal.
“If we will enjoy any success, and I have only slight hope that we will, it will be if we are able to get some help from the Lee County Board,” Logan said.
He said it was unfortunate that the zoning board knows so little about ethics, procedure and protocol in conducting the people’s business.
The zoning board’s proposed ordinance will be presented at the County Board’s March 20 meeting, the same day as the Republican and Democratic primaries. The board then likely would hold a vote on the proposal at its April 17 meeting.
The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday 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 vote on an alternative proposal for wind energy regulations.
For more information, go to www.countyoflee.org or call the zoning office at 815-288-3643.
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