August 22, 2012

Whiteside County Board OKs wind farm; Deer Grove to decide on two turbines

BY DAVID GIULIANI | 22 August 2012

MORRISON – By a 19-6 vote, the Whiteside County Board on Tuesday approved a proposed wind farm near Deer Grove.

Subject to conditions, Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power got the go-ahead to build seven turbines in far southeastern Whiteside County.

The board also approved two others, but officials said those need to get the nod from the Deer Grove village board.

After the vote, Chairman Tony Arduini of Rock Falls said, “The motion is passed. Hallelujah!”

Many neighbors protested the turbines, saying they would create noise, vibrations and shadow flicker.

During earlier public hearings, resident Greg Wahl, CEO Wahl Clipper Corp., contended the turbines would hurt threatened species on his nearby 22 acres of “undisturbed prairie.”

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that the turbines be a half mile from that prairie, a condition the County Board accepted. That rule is stricter than the county’s requirement for the distance between turbines and homes – a little more than a quarter mile.

County Board member Jim Duffy, D-Sterling, who voted against the wind farm, said he had reservations about Mainstream.

“It seems like the wind farm company hasn’t been willing to do anything that it hasn’t been absolutely forced to do,” Duffy said. “Other companies have bent over backward to work with neighbors. … How well will they work with us once they get what they want?”

Keith Bolin of Mainstream said his company would work to earn the board’s trust.

“We intend to be good neighbors,” Bolin said, adding that his company didn’t get everything it wanted.

The board took at least one suggestion from Mainstream. The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the company take care of nonemergency problems such as noise, shadow flicker and interference with TV and radio reception within 24 hours.

Mainstream, however, requested the county require the company to give a response within 48 hours and mitigate issues within a reasonable time. The board agreed with the 48 hours, but used different language for mitigation – “the shortest time possible.”

The board approved another amendment to the conditions, proposed by member Ruth Stanley, R-Sterling, that would require the county to hire a consultant to look out for the interests of the county, Hahnaman Township and residents. Mainstream would foot the bill.

After the vote, the public was allowed to speak.

Deb Murphy, whose home would be nearest to the turbines, thanked the board members who visited her home while researching the wind farm issue.

Sterling resident Amanda Norris, who had spoken out against the wind farm, signed up to give public input. When her name was called, she declined.

“I’m going to hold my tongue,” she said.

Wahl also passed up the chance to speak.

The wind farm would include turbines in Lee and Bureau counties, which are still holding public hearings.

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