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Woodford County approves changes to wind farm ordinance

EUREKA – After one final burst of energy, the wind-farm issue in Woodford County appears to be settled. For the most part, at least.

During a four-hour meeting Monday night, the Woodford County Board approved most of the major proposed zoning-ordinance changes that deal with wind-energy conversion systems.

By an 8-7 vote, the board approved a change in the distance turbine towers need to be located from residences that aren’t part of a wind farm. That distance expands from 750 feet to four times the tower height. A typical wind-turbine tower can be at least 400 feet tall.

“It’s to protect the residential portion of property for non-participatory households,” board member Shannon Rocke said during the meeting at Eureka College. “That is its intent – not to run wind farms out of the county.”

Rocke sits on the board’s conservation, planning and zoning committee, which crafted the ordinance changes. He joined Russell Cotton, Tom Evans, Board Chairman Stan Glazier, Doug Huser, Duane Kingdon, Barry Logan and Andrew Martin in the majority. Supporters believe the new regulations ensure property rights of landowners who live near wind farms.

Voting against the new, so-called setbacks were Don Cremeens, Mike Hinrichsen, Tom Janssen, Tom Karr, John Krug, Terry Pille and Larry Whitaker. Opponents believe the regulations are too restrictive.

“This concept of a multiplier for non-participating households is something I’m intrigued by,” Whitaker said. “I just think the number is wrong.”

To that end, Whitaker proposed a revision to the revision – increasing the setback to three times the tower height. It failed, also by an 8-7 vote.

Revisions on shadow flicker – in which rotating wind-turbine blades cast shadows upon stationary objects – passed 10-5. Hinrichsen, Karr, Krug, Pille and Whitaker voted against the new language, which limits shadow flicker on a residence to 30 hours per calendar year.

Revisions on decommissioning of wind farms were referred back to the zoning committee after State’s Attorney Greg Minger questioned their ability to withstand a court challenge.

An hour of public comments followed by at least an hour of board debate preceded the votes in the north Terrill Room of Cerf Center. About 80 people attended, and more than a dozen spoke publicly. None of those who addressed the wind-farm issue supported the changes.

“I think some of these people who complain about the inappropriateness of these wind farms aren’t willing to move on,” Metamora resident Claudene Schertz said.

Said another Metamora resident, Farrell Lord: “This is insanity.”

The board’s regular February meeting was held six days after it was scheduled originally. It was postponed after an agenda wasn’t posted at least 48 hours prior to the meeting, at the site where it usually is held. The site was changed because the wind-farm vote was expected to attract a crowd larger than the board’s meeting room can hold.