DIXON – The southwestern corner is Lee County’s least populated area, but it will grab much attention over the coming weeks and months.
Thursday will be the first hearing for 58 wind turbines in Hamilton and East Grove townships, which is proposed by Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power.
According to the 2010 Census, Hamilton and East Grove had populations of 205 and 256, respectively, making them the smallest and third smallest of the county’s 22 townships.
Together, they make up 1.3 percent of the county’s population.
In the last year, many Hamilton Township residents have been particularly vocal against the prospect of turbines, so the township’s board adopted a comprehensive plan that recommends against wind farms.
Much of the township is in the Green River flood plain, which, township officials say, isn’t a good place for wind turbine foundations.
Hamilton Township, along with residents Larry and Steven Gerdes, Sandra and Gene Kruse and John and Nancy Rutkowski, are being represented by Rockford attorney Rick Porter. Porter has fought wind farms across northern Illinois.
The township has a budget of $5,000 for Porter’s representation, Supervisor Stacy Gonigam said.
“The turbines are in the flood plain,” she said. “They’re too close to the Green River.”
East Grove, for its part, has been quiet about the proposed wind farm, which also would extend into Whiteside and Bureau counties. Mainstream plans 24 turbines for East Grove and 34 for Hamilton, said Chris Henkel, Lee County zoning administrator.
Lee County has dealt with wind turbines for the last decade; it now has 232.
Despite its experience, it is prepared to follow Whiteside County’s lead on how to handle Mainstream’s hearings. This is Whiteside’s first wind farm application.
Whiteside had a facilitator, former Circuit Court Judge Tim Slavin, preside over its hearings. Lee County is also expected to hire Slavin for that job.
Whiteside’s procedures ask that objectors with attorneys give timely notice beforehand so that the applicant can adequately prepare. The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals is expected to enact a similar rule as part of its changes.
Henkel said the zoning board is expected to get rid of all of its procedural time limits for people’s comments. The current rules ask that objectors who want to cross-examine witnesses file an appearance form at least 5 business days beforehand. That also likely will be dropped, Henkel said.
These changes would mirror Whiteside’s procedures.
Henkel said previous wind farm applications had to undergo only a 1-day zoning board hearing. But with more opposition, the process likely will take much longer, he said.
Wind farm foes say turbines need to be farther from homes because of their noise, vibrations and shadow flicker. Mainstream has promised to be a good neighbor.
The zoning board will make a recommendation on the wind farm; the Lee County Board will have the final say.
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 meeting is expected to last 21/2 hours.
The board will have a public hearing for Mainstream Renewable Power’s application for 58 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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