ROCKS FALLS – Deb Murphy, who lives near Deer Grove, says she expects the turbines that are planned for the properties near her home will ruin the quiet she enjoys.
“How easy it was for the neighbors to sign [for turbines] when none of them live anywhere near,” she told the Whiteside County Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday night.
Murphy was among several speakers opposed to the plans of Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power, which wants to build nine turbines in the southeast corner of Whiteside County.
The firm also has applied to have 19 turbines in Bureau County and is expected to seek about 30 in Lee County.
Wednesday’s hearing at the Rock Falls Community Building was the first in Whiteside County for the planned wind farm, known as the Green River project. About 70 people attended, with the Rock Falls police chief and the Whiteside County sheriff on hand for security.
Seventeen County Board members also showed up, more than half of the 27-member board.
Mainstream said it had studied the noise issue and found the proposed turbines would be within the Illinois Pollution Control Board’s sound regulations. It also said the problem of shadow flicker would be minimal for nearby homes – at most 30 hours a year.
During the hearing, residents could question Mainstream officials.
One of the issues of interest was the decommissioning of turbines. Many residents want a plan for the turbines to be taken down once they’re no longer operating.
John Martin, the project manager, said his company hadn’t presented its decommissioning plan to Whiteside County but that it could provide a draft at the commission’s meeting in 2 weeks.
Some residents wanted to know whether Mainstream planned to sell the wind farm once it was completed. Such projects often change hands, which often irks neighbors who fear promises won’t be kept.
Martin said the company had no plan to sell the Mainstream project “at this point.”
“We don’t have a buyer now,” he said.
Resident Frank Angone asked, “How fast will you dump the project?”
“I don’t know,” Martin responded.
Asked about how long turbines last, Martin said that if a company does proper preventive maintenance, a turbine can last more than 20 years.
After the questioning, residents were allowed to testify about the project. Gilbert Hostetler, a member of the Amish Mennonite community near Deer Grove, opposed it. He said the turbines would affect the quiet farming lifestyle of the area and reduce nearby home values.
Hostetler also said that when members of his community wanted a hog farm, neighbors protested. The Amish took that into consideration, he said.
He urged the same consideration for his request that neighbors not allow wind turbines on their properties. He suggested a 1-mile setback between turbines and homes – about four times what the county now requires.
Many of the residents who spoke have been in their homes for years. Murphy said her land has been in the family for more than a century. At night, she said, there is nothing but stars in the sky.
“I want my grandchildren to appreciate it, too,” she said.
The Planning and Zoning Committee plans to meet every other week until the process is completed. At the next session, Mainstream plans to bring forward expert witnesses.
The Whiteside County Planning and Zoning Commission meets at 7 p.m. April 18 at the Rock Falls Community Building, 601 W. 10th St. in Rock Falls.
Mainstream Renewable Power will bring expert witnesses to make its case for its wind farm.
For more info on the hearing, call Whiteside County’s zoning office at 815-772-5175.
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