DIXON – Lee County Board Chairman Jim Seeberg said Tuesday that he wanted no delays on a decision on proposed wind energy rules.
A day earlier, most of the members of a special committee requested the County Board hold off for a month.
Seeberg, R-Ashton, said the Zoning Board of Appeals has completed its proposed ordinance, so the County Board should have an up-or-down vote at its April 17 meeting.
“We go by the zoning board,” the chairman said. “I don’t really care about that [special] committee.”
Member Marilyn Shippert, R-Dixon, who heads the special committee, said Seeberg’s position didn’t surprise her.
“I didn’t get the feeling we were empowered to do anything,” she said.
She said she wanted discussion on the proposed wind rules at last month’s County Board meeting, but then the board quickly formed a special committee to review the zoning board’s proposal before the April vote.
“My perception was that they wanted us to spin our wheels,” Shippert said.
Unlike the current ordinance, the proposed rules cover such things as turbines’ noise and shadow flicker. It also includes a program to protect the values of neighboring properties.
The ordinance includes a setback of 1,400 feet between houses and turbines, which is what the county has required of wind farms on a case-by-case basis.
The special committee, however, wants to increase that setback to 2,000 feet between nonparticipating landowners’ property lines and turbines. That would be the state’s longest setback.
Two townships, Willow Creek and Hamilton, have filed protests against the zoning board’s proposal. That means three-fourths of the County Board must approve the document, rather than a simple majority.
If the proposal fails, then the existing rules govern. All sides agree that those regulations are much weaker.
Soon, Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power is expected to turn in its application for about 30 turbines in Lee County. It already has done so in Whiteside and Bureau counties.
At Monday’s special committee meeting, Roseann Para of Willow Creek wanted to know whether the committee would negotiate with the townships on changes they’re requesting.
She said Willow Creek tried to keep its requests limited, so it could reach agreement with the county so that only a simple majority would be required.
Members said they didn’t have the power to negotiate.
“What it comes down to is that we’re not ready to take a vote on this,” said member David Gusse, R-Dixon. He suggested the committee get the power to negotiate from the full board.
Para said she wanted to know what information she should bring back to the township board. After she didn’t get a definitive response, Para said, “I’m lost.”
Gusse replied, “So are we.”
Dean Geldean, a member of the Hamilton board, said his township wanted a 2,000-foot setback from the Green River, which regularly floods. He questioned whether it would be safe to put turbines there.
John Martin, the senior project manager for Mainstream, said his company has leased land next to the Green River. It has checked on floodplain issues with the state and is planning bigger foundations for the turbines near the river.
“It’s a great place to build,” he said.
Some in the audience laughed.
The committee didn’t comment on the Hamilton request.
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.
Are wind farms exempt from plan?
DIXON – Lee County’s comprehensive plan makes it a priority to preserve prime farmland.
For years, it has required agricultural site assessments for nonfarm development in rural areas.
So does that apply to wind farms?
So far, it hasn’t. But some say it should.
The issue came up during this week’s meeting of a special county committee that is reviewing proposed wind energy rules.
Bob Logan, Franklin Grove’s village president, said the county should subject every wind farm to the process – known formally as the Land Evaluation and Site Assessment, or LESA.
He cited a county ordinance that requires such a process for all developments. He questioned why the county hadn’t done so for wind farms.
County Board member John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove, said officials should consult with the Zoning Board of Appeals to determine why the county exempts wind farms from agricultural assessments.
“I know there’s a reason,” he said.
A day after the meeting, Chris Henkel, the county’s zoning administrator, who didn’t attend the meeting, said the county’s Planning Commission years ago passed a memorandum that exempted wind farms.
He said he wouldn’t even know how to do a site assessment for a wind turbine because it takes only a small amount of land. Wind farms don’t take out soil or farms, he said.
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