September 27, 2012

Long-winded turbine talks could delay vote in Boone County

By Jennifer Wheeler | Rockford Register Star | 26 September 2012

BELVIDERE – Hours of discussion from residents concerning the area’s stance on wind turbines could prevent the current Boone County Board from voting on the issue.

Over 100 people crowded into the Zoning Board of Appeals room Tuesday, some bringing miniature, homemade replica turbines and others with binders stacked 3-inches tall with research. The group heard testimony from only three of the 40-plus people who signed up to speak during the 3½-hour meeting.

“Emotions are high on both sides. I think people are expressing the way they can. Everybody has feelings, but you have to try to listen to what they’re really saying,” said ZBA member Joan Krumm.

The debate surrounds the county’s Planning Zoning and Building Committee’s recommendation to change the wind energy code language to ensure it meets modern-day standards. Some argue that these changes would consequently limit where the windmills could be housed.

The proposed amendments 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 decommissioning process.

International wind developer Mainstream Renewable Power is interested in placing wind turbines in LeRoy and Manchester townships, though there aren’t any structures in Boone County now.

The process for ZBA to reach recommendation includes staff providing a report, staff answering questions and people providing public testimony under oath. Anyone who speaks can be cross-examined, and the board can ask staff to research additional information.

With dozens of people left hoping to speak on the issue, the board anticipates holding two more meetings before offering a recommendation. The ZBA meets monthly, which means the group would have to hold a special meeting before the current County Board’s final meeting in November.

“I don’t know whether the advocates or those who opposed it would approve one (board) or the other but it’s just the board that exists at the time,” said ZBA member Darrel Davis.

Testimony was delayed Tuesday because the board abandoned its five-minute speaking time limit to accommodate the three individuals who either served or spoke on behalf of those who are on the PZB committee.

Davis said he was disappointed at the speed his group was hearing testimony. Individuals should be able to illustrate their point and evidence during that time period.

“In our next meeting, we are going to move a little faster and be proactive now (and say), ‘We’ve heard this point, now let’s move on to the next,’” he added.

The ZBA hasn’t heard a case that triggered this much testimony in five years, said Associate Planner Gina DelRose.

Though construction on Belvidere’s St. James Catholic Church caused many individuals to attend a ZBA meeting, there was a representative who spoke on behalf of the group.

The latest largely contested case came about from ChemTool, which made lubricants and fluids for cutting and grinding applications, and Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission, which hoped to transform property into a monastery and convent.

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