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Boone County leaders consider changing wind power language

BELVIDERE – The possibility of Boone County generating wind power may become more complicated if the County Board adopts new language into its code.

The county’s Planning, Zoning and Building Committee has proposed doubling the distance between a primary structure, like a home, and a wind farm; increasing the number of structures from which windmills must be distanced; and placing language into the ordinance that details how to remove a windmill no longer in service.

“The language that we thought was sufficient five to 10 years ago does not even begin to address a lot of the realities well known now,” said Marshall Newhouse, chair of the county’s Planning, Zoning and Building Committee.

But the planning department staff and Boone County Regional Planning Commission weren’t on board with changing the language.

The county’s planning department argued that the proposed language would limit the locations that could house the turbines. The Boone County Regional Planning Commission agreed, voting 5-0 on Aug. 21 to keep the wording as is to match the county’s comprehensive plan.

The issue will be brought before the Boone County Zoning Board of Appeals at 7 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Boone County Administration Campus, 1212 Logan Ave. Residents will be limited to five minutes of comment each.

If the county committee supports the measure again, the issue will be brought before the Boone County Board for a vote.

There are no windmills in Boone County now, although international wind developer Mainstream Renewable Power has indicated it may apply for a special use permit to create a windfarm site.

“They wanted to wait until the (code) comes out, so they know what they are up against,” Newhouse added.

Proposed language limits locations, increases difficulty

The proposed changes will almost certainly reduce the number of locations where windmills can be housed, said county Associate Planner Gina DelRose.

The increased setback distance – from 1,000 to 2,000 feet – could shrink the number of places these structures could be built. The specific setbacks could also make it tough, since officials must now learn where they are located before determining if it is far enough away.

“(The current code) was easy to enforce. It was easy to look at a piece of property. Now, there all these different setbacks; we don’t know where underground stuff is,” DelRose said.

The proposed amendment is not cohesive with the county’s comprehensive plan, which states that wind turbines should be viewed as favorable, said Kristine Ramsay-Schnor, vice chairwoman of the Boone County Regional Planning Commission. The new language would make it tougher for someone to build one.

“They put huge restrictions (in the proposal), which made it inconsistent,” she added.

Language keeps up with times

Marshall argues that the changes would keep up with the industry and neighboring communities’ codes.

Newhouse said once he learned that Mainstream Renewable Source was interested in placing windmills in the county, he began to look at the impact and size of the industry’s new turbines.

“(Applicants) were delving heavily into issues we weren’t even considering,” he said, including various decommission plans and types of setbacks.