DIXON – Proponents and opponents of wind farms agree on one thing: They don’t like Lee County’s proposed wind energy rules.
But they have different reasons.
For more than an hour Tuesday, the Lee County Board heard comments on the proposed wind energy ordinance, which members could vote on as early as next month.
Representatives of two townships – Willow Creek and Hamilton – said they would file objections to the ordinance. Because of those protests, the County Board would need to get three-fourths of its members to pass the proposal, rather than a simple majority.
For months, the Zoning Board of Appeals held meetings to draft the ordinance and take public input.
Under its proposal, the county would address noise and shadow flicker from wind turbines – unlike the current ordinance.
The proposed ordinance also includes a home seller protection program. That program, officials say, creates a mechanism for wind energy companies to compensate neighboring homeowners who are struggling to sell their properties because of nearby turbines.
The ordinance also sets a required distance of 1,400 feet between turbines and homes – the same as what the county has mandated before.
Representatives of Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power have attended all of the zoning board meetings. The company is planning a wind farm for Lee, Whiteside and Bureau counties. It already has turned in applications to Whiteside and Bureau, but not Lee.
Tuesday, John Martin, the senior project manager for the three-county wind farm, told the board that his company opposed the ordinance because of “imperfections.”
As an example, Martin cited the costs of the home seller protection program. He said the proposed ordinance would perhaps be the toughest in Illinois.
He was one of 11 speakers at the meeting. The other 10 said they wanted an ordinance with stricter regulations.
They pushed for a decibel limit on turbines, and they opposed the 1,400-foot setback. They want a 2,000-foot setback from property lines, instead of home foundations.
They also said the rules lacked an incentive for companies to take down turbines after they’re abandoned.
Franklin Grove Village President Bob Logan and others urged the board to send the proposed ordinance back to the zoning board.
“I recommend that you provide instructions this time expanding on Larry the Cable Guy’s ‘Get ’er done,’ to ‘Get ’er done right,’” Logan said.
Attorney Rick Porter, who is representing Hamilton Township residents who want more wind farm restrictions, said the proposed ordinance is better than the existing one.
Porter asked the County Board to include language for the 2,000-foot setback for the townships requesting that setback distance. If it did, he expected the townships to drop their objections, thus allowing the board to pass the ordinance with only a simple majority.
He said after the meeting that the wind energy industry wouldn’t mind keeping the current rules because they’re much looser than what’s proposed.
The board agreed to vote on the proposed ordinance at its April 17 meeting.
Board member Lisa Zeimetz, R-Paw Paw, asked the board to set up a committee consisting of two members from each of the four districts to review the proposal.
Others agreed. The board got volunteers from each district, and members agreed to have Marilyn Shippert, R-Dixon, head the panel.
Its first meeting is set for Monday.
A special committee of the Lee County Board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday on the third floor of the Old County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.
Members will review a proposed wind energy ordinance, which was drafted by the Zoning Board of Appeals. They are Marilyn Shippert, David Gusse, Ed Fritts, David Chandler and Charlie Thomas, all of Dixon, Lisa Zeimetz of Paw Paw, and Allyn Buhrow of Ashton. All are Republicans.
Call the board chairman’s office, 815-288-5676, for more information.
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