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Personal wind turbine unlikely for Medina Township residents

PEORIA – A proposal by two Medina Township residents to build an electricity-generating wind turbine on their riverfront property was, as expected, returned by the Peoria County Board to the Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday for further safety review.

That likely kills the proposal – which nearby residents and environmentalists worried would kill or drive away a series of migratory birds including federally protected bald eagles – said petitioners George and Kim Blackburn, who consider it unlikely that they’ll be able to get grant money, designed to help citizens improve their green energy supply, now that they face at least an additional 90-day delay.

“It’s a crapshoot,” George Blackburn said after the meeting, noting that they had three times applied for the grant and only received it once, this year. He told the board that a decision was needed by June to access the funds “to reduce our carbon footprint.”

The topic took 45 minutes of citizen comments and debate among members of the County Board. The notion of returning it to the ZBA was reached because members of the county’s Land Use Committee had questions about safety and the impact on the environment that they felt needed additional research.

“We’re not talking about some nuisance birds in a cornfield,” committee Chairman Stephen Morris said. “We’re talking about bald eagles” as well as certain pelican species and other birds.

Neighbors agreed, suggesting that not only were some birds at risk of being killed, but that if they were not killed they would be driven away from that stretch of river, which would also have an impact on tourism in the region.

“I think this is a dangerous precedent for this area,” said Ted Rogers, who lives two doors down from the Blackburns on River Beach Drive.

The Blackburns’ attorney, Ron Cadwalader, disputed the notion of bird deaths, saying the mortality rate of birds in wind turbine-related collisions is less than for those involving birds and buildings, cars and other, more common, obstacles.

Nevertheless, some board members felt that given the lengthy petition process, the Blackburns deserved to have a straight up-or-down vote on the proposal.

“We just need to give these people some clear direction so they can move on with their lives,” board member Brian Elsasser said.

The board voted 12-6 to send the matter back to the ZBA, with members Elsasser, Bob Baietto, Brad Harding, Bonnie Hester, Rachael Parker and Paul Rosenbohm opposing the delay.