DIXON – Previous wind farms in Lee County faced little, if any, opposition. Those days are apparently over.
Chris Henkel, Lee County’s zoning administrator, recalls that the proposal for the Big Sky wind farm, which straddles Lee and Bureau counties, drew no opponents during a zoning hearing nearly 3 years ago.
One person asked questions, but wasn’t an opponent, Henkel said.
But he expects much opposition to the latest application for a wind farm, submitted this month by Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power. That’s because the opposition to wind farms in general has gained strength, he said.
In 2003, Mendota Hills in eastern Lee County started operating as the state’s first wind farm. Lee County since has become a major wind energy-producing county.
In fall 2010, the County Board asked the Zoning Board of Appeals to draft a new wind energy ordinance. After more than a year of meetings – which sometimes attracted nearly 100 people – the panel finished a new ordinance in February.
The County Board voted it down.
Word of Mainstream’s proposal also sparked reviews of wind energy regulations in Whiteside and Bureau counties.
The company submitted its applications to Whiteside and Bureau counties first. Whiteside, which has no experience with wind farms, has had hearings on the proposal for more than 2 months.
Lee County never has taken more than one meeting to get a wind farm approved, Henkel said.
Next week, the zoning board plans to vote on a change to its procedures to allow the hiring of a meeting facilitator, who would be a lawyer.
Whiteside has had a facilitator for its hearings – former Judge Tim Slavin of Morrison.
Slavin gets $210 a hour from Whiteside, totaling $2,625 so far.
As the applicant, Mainstream will cover that cost. That’s how Lee County will handle it, too, Henkel said.
Lee County hasn’t decided on who it would hire, but Henkel said Slavin would be a good fit.
“We want to make sure the hearings run as smoothly as possible,” he said.
The first hearing is tentatively set for July 5.
The County Board has the final say on the wind farm.
Mainstream plans 60 turbines in Lee County, 19 in Bureau and nine in Whiteside.
The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday on the third floor of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St. in Dixon.
The board will consider changes to its procedures to allow for the hiring of a hearing facilitator for when it considers Mainstream Renewable Power’s application for a wind farm.
The board also is tentatively set to meet at 7 p.m. July 5 in the same place to begin its hearing for Mainstream’s application.
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