BELVIDERE – Concerns about the health and safety of people who live near wind farms took up hours of discussion Tuesday at the Boone County Zoning Board of Appeals meeting.
At press time, the ZBA had not reached a recommendation on changing the county’s code.
The Planning, Zoning and Building Committee has proposed changing the language on wind power to ensure the wording meets modern-day standards, although it would almost certainly limit where these structures could be housed.
The proposed changes include doubling the distance between a primary structure and wind farm to 2,000 feet, increasing the types of structures that wind farms must be distanced from and altering the procedure to remove a windmill.
The code would serve as the minimum standards for a wind energy structure. These regulations could become more strict as a government processes an applicant’s special-use permit.
There aren’t any windmills in Boone County, but international wind developer Mainstream Renewable Power is interested in changing that.
The company has been eyeing land within LeRoy and Manchester Townships for about four years, senior development project manager John Martin said. When determining whether this would be a favorable area, the company evaluated its supportive land owners, grid interconnections, environmental needs and regulatory restrictions.
“There’s enough consistent wind possible to drive a profitable project,” he said.
The number of windmills, turbine model or the structure’s rating is dependent on the Boone County Board’s final vote.
PZB Committee Vice Chairman Laura Guerin-Hunt spoke against the current language on behalf of the committee, arguing that the only way officials can ensure that residents live in a peaceful area without turbines is to increase the distance between them and other structures.
She said the County Board has taken action to ensure that activities that have a negative effect on neighbors are kept to a minimum. Officials should prevent these undesirable effects rather than attempt to fix them later.
“In the case of wind farms, there are no berms to build, or trees to plant, or fences to erect that are high enough to shield neighbors from the huge, industrial turbines atop towers hundreds of feet high,” she added.
The ZBA’s recommendation will be presented to the PZB Committee. The County Board will then vote on the issue.
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