DIXON – Lee County has 232 wind turbines, and 60 more are proposed.
How many more will come after that?
None at all, if some Lee County Board members get their way.
During a committee meeting Monday, County Board member David Gusse, R-Dixon, said he had an issue on his mind that he would discuss next month.
John Ferrone, R-Dixon, chairman of the board’s Administrative Services Committee, said Gusse should talk about it now.
Gusse said Ferrone had made fun of his idea.
“I told you it was a dumb idea,” Ferrone said.
Gusse proposed the board cap the number of turbines in the county – something that wouldn’t affect current permits.
“I think, at some point, we have to say that we have enough,” Gusse said. “Maybe we have reached close to saturation.”
The southeastern part of the county is “pretty well blanketed” with turbines, he said.
Another committee member, Steve Kitzman, R-Dixon, agreed.
“Lee County has done its job in renewable energy,” Kitzman said. “There’s no more we can do.”
County Board Chairman Jim Seeberg, R-Ashton, also backed the idea.
After the meeting, member Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy, said in an interview that the county needed a “happy medium,” saying he wasn’t opposed to a cap.
Ferrone said he was against a cap because the county should be prepared for changes in wind turbine technology.
“To say we don’t ever want more, you’re closing the door on the future,” Ferrone said. “I have no idea what the future will bring, and no one else does.”
In an interview earlier this year, Ferrone said he found turbines beautiful. He said he would consider having turbines if he had a farm.
Last month, the County Board voted 18-4 against a new wind energy ordinance that the Zoning Board of Appeals had worked on for more than a year.
Gusse and Kitzman dissented.
Gusse called the board’s decision an “absolute mistake.” The ordinance would have been much more restrictive of wind farms than what’s on the books now.
Gusse praised Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power, which recently submitted the application for 60 turbines. He said the company is “fairly solid as far as ethics,” noting that its proposal largely complied with the rejected ordinance.
The county has set its first hearing on Mainstream’s application for July 5.
Chris Henkel, the county’s zoning administrator, said he’s “99 percent sure” that Tim Slavin, a former Whiteside County judge, will be the hearing facilitator. Slavin has filled that role for Mainstream’s recent hearings in Whiteside County.
The company wants nine turbines in Whiteside County and 19 in Bureau County.
Whiteside County has no wind farms now.
The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals will meet at 7 p.m. July 5 on the third floor of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St. in Dixon.
The board will have a public hearing for Mainstream Renewable Power’s application for 60 turbines in the southwestern area of the county.
For an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings, or more information, go to www.countyoflee.org or call 815-288-5676.
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