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Deer Grove receives county backing on wind turbines

MORRISON – Deer Grove has the final say on two proposed wind turbines near its borders, a Whiteside County official says.

The village, population 48, has long said it has such power within 1.5 miles of the village limits.

Last year, the village enacted a zoning ordinance in the belief that it needed one to regulate nearby development of turbines.

Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power has proposed nine turbines in far southeastern Whiteside County as part of a three-county wind farm.

Recently, the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the approval of nine turbines, including two near Deer Grove. The County Board will decide the issue on Aug. 21.

Stuart Richter, the county’s zoning administrator, said the county would issue the building permits for the towers only if Deer Grove approves.

“Mainstream wanted them [turbines] approved by Whiteside County so that if the situation changes, they don’t have to go back through another hearing,” he said.

During a Whiteside County public hearing, John Martin of Mainstream testified the village had not met the regulatory requirements to keep out turbines.

Last week, Martin said that the village’s wind energy rules were an effective ban on wind turbines, and that Deer Grove wasn’t allowed to prohibit a property use.

“We think the county took some appropriate protections on Deer Grove’s behalf,” he said. “There is an equitable relationship that can be agreed upon.”

Deer Grove’s ordinance prohibits wind turbines of more than 60 feet high within the village and the surrounding 1.5-mile area.

In a 2010 informal opinion, the state’s attorney general said municipalities have the right to regulate wind farms within 1.5 miles of their borders. No zoning ordinance is needed, said Thomas Davis, the attorney general’s environmental bureau chief.

This is a widely recognized power. Jim Griffin, a Chicago-based pro-wind farm attorney, has given presentations saying state law grants counties jurisdiction over turbines in unincorporated areas, but not those within 1.5 miles of towns.

Griffin represented Mainstream during public hearings to revise Lee County’s wind energy regulations.

Bob Logan, who drafted Deer Grove’s zoning ordinance, said Whiteside County has no authority to act on the two turbines.

“The county needs to take the two turbines out,” said Logan, who is village president in Franklin Grove, a small town in Lee County.

Deer Grove’s ordinance essentially keeps out industrial-type turbines, but permits smaller ones, said Logan, arguing that it is not a ban.

Deer Grove Village President Al Thompson opposes nearby turbines.

Meeting Aug. 21

The Whiteside County Board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21 in its chambers at the Whiteside County Courthouse, 400 N. Cherry St. in Morrison.

The board will vote on a proposed wind farm.

For an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings or more information, go to www.whiteside.org or call 815-772-5100.