DIXON – A Lee County committee wants to delay a decision on proposed wind energy rules, saying it needs more time to make recommendations.
The full County Board is set to vote on the proposed rules at its April 17 meeting. But Monday, a special committee, consisting of nine board members, said it wanted the board to hold off on a vote until May.
Meanwhile, Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Energy has been waiting for a decision on the county’s wind energy rules. It is planning a wind farm in Lee, Whiteside and Bureau counties.
Mainstream already has turned in applications for turbines in Whiteside and Bureau counties. It says it probably would wait for Lee County to complete its process before submitting an application.
The company wants 19 turbines in Bureau County and nine in Whiteside. It is expected to seek about 30 in Lee.
In February, the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals completed its proposed wind energy ordinance after months of work.
Last month, the 28-member County Board decided to form the special committee to review the ordinance before the April vote.
County Board member Gerald Leffelman, R-Sublette, who is not on the committee, asked the panel about the possibility of a 6-month moratorium on new wind farms to give the county more time to look at the rules.
The county enacted such a moratorium in September 2010, but it expired after 5 months.
In February 2011, the board’s Properties Committee voted against continuing it, and the issue never came back before the full board.
David Gusse, R-Dixon, a member of the special committee, called the Properties Committee’s action “underhanded.”
“We never had a chance to comment on that, and you know it’s true,” Gusse told member John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove, chairman of the Properties Committee.
Nicholson said that wasn’t the case.
Steve Kitzman, R-Dixon, urged against a delay, saying the board should give an up-or-down vote on the zoning board’s proposed wind energy ordinance.
“A moratorium is very unfair for the business people who are wanting to move forward,” he said, referring to the Mainstream representatives in the audience. “It’s fair to take a vote on this.”
At the special committee’s meeting last week, most of the members agreed to increase the proposed setback distances for turbines. The zoning board proposed 1,400 feet or 3.5 times the height of turbines between houses and turbines.
In Mainstream’s case, that would amount to a setback of nearly 1,800 feet, its representatives say.
The special committee decided to have a setback of 2,000 feet from non-participating landowners’ property lines, which would be the longest in the state. One other county recently enacted a 2,000-foot setback, but that is from a house, not the property line.
At Monday’s meeting, the committee didn’t reach any decisions on amendments to the zoning board’s proposal. But most of the members agreed changes needed to be made to the zoning board’s language for decommissioning of turbines.
The county doesn’t have a policy for decommissioning now, but officials want a way to deal with turbines that have been abandoned. The zoning board proposed collecting financial security for decommissioning over the first 15 years of a project.
But many members of the special committee opposed having the county so closely involved. They said landowners should make sure a company has a decommissioning plan when they agree to lease their land for turbines.
“The county doesn’t have the wherewithal to take care of this,” said Allyn Buhrow, R-Ashton. “By taking [companies’] money, we’re assuming liability.”
He suggested putting liens on those properties with abandoned turbines to pay for taking them down. But he conceded that the costs of decommissioning may be more than the properties’ values.
Members said the decommissioning part of the ordinance needed more work, thus the reason for calling for a delay.
Marilyn Shippert, R-Dixon, the committee’s chairwoman, said board Chairman Jim Seeberg, R-Ashton, gave the impression that he wanted the committee to finish its work in time for the April 17 meeting.
Seeberg wasn’t at Monday’s meeting, so it wasn’t immediately clear whether he would call for a vote at this month’s board meeting.
The Lee County Board will meet at 9 a.m. April 17 on the third floor of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St. in Dixon.
The board may vote on a proposed wind energy ordinance.
For an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings, or more information, go to www.countyoflee.org or call 815-288-5676.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding