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Zoning board hears variety of viewpoints at wind farm meeting

BELVIDERE – The Belvidere City Council meeting room was packed Oct. 23 for the second public hearing on proposed revisions to Boone County wind farm regulations.

Interested men and women lined the halls inside the room and a couple of them sat on the floor. The size of the crowd, well in excess of the room’s capacity of 102 people, prompted county staff to set up chairs in the adjacent hallway.

Prior to the hearing before the county zoning board of appeals beginning, associate planner Gina DelRose asked people not to block the doorway leaving from the hallway into the meeting room.

Also before the hearing began board member Joan Krumm asked planning staff to turn down the air conditioning. “It’s hot already,” she said, “Put it at 62.”

The room cooled off pretty quickly and soon she asked staff to crank it up a bit.

As minutes of the previous hearing were considered Krumm observed that some of the information that was presented was not included. She asked if that was reflected somewhere else?

“Minutes are just a summation,” State’s Attorney Michelle Courier replied. “Everything that was presented is part of the record.”

DelRose said the last hearing was recorded and downloaded on a computer. The hearing also was video-taped, she added.

Board Chairman Norm Stimes said the hearing would continue where the other one left off. He asked speakers to be concise and to abide by the five-minute time limit.

That didn’t work very well as 20 speakers took the almost four hours the meeting lasted. Once a presentation was over Stimes called for questions, first from board members, then from the audience.

While the board didn’t always have questions there were inquiries from the audience after all but one of the speakers.

Presentations are varied

Speakers were supposed to address the text amendments, which were revisions to wind farm regulations proposed by the planning, zoning and building committee, a standing committee of the county board that consists of five board members.

But not everyone stayed on task and they had to be redirected by Stimes to remain within those parameters.

The wind farm is being proposed for Leroy and Manchester townships. Lavonne Wundrow, a Leroy Township resident, said the state and federal governments are broke and that a wind farm “would help us all.”

She suggested a setback of 1,200 feet, saying 2,000 “would preclude many from having a turbine on their property.”

She researched Kewaunee County in Wisconsin and found no adverse health effects caused by turbines, that those with turbines were happy, those without were not, and only one farmer complained about the turbines before they were built and after they were built.

John Nall said he thought the whole subject of wind farms was “much ado about nothing.”

He claimed information on the Concerned Citizens of Boone County website was “scare tactics. Nothing positive; it’s all negative. There’s no science to back up their claims.”

Matthew Wundrow had a slide show that claimed no ill effects of wind farms at various locations in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Gary Mahon said his dairy farm in Winslow was 1,500 feet away from a 350-foot-tall wind turbine and that there were no problems. “When you stand under it there’s very little sound,” he said.

Later in the hearing there were positive comments from two residents, one of whom wanted the 1,000-foot setback to remain and said, “A wind farm would bring jobs and tax revenue to Boone County.”

Walnut resident Kendall Guither talked about problems during construction of wind turbines in that area and said shadow flicker was “a huge issue, especially for someone like me who is subject to motion sickness.”

Pam Oberholtzer read a letter from Steve Thomas, owner of Poplar Grove Airport, who was opposed to the wind farm.

While DelRose said that was not part of that night’s hearing, Stimes said to allow her to speak and she continued reading from the letter.

Crop duster Paul Carner, who lives in Manchester Township, said he wouldn’t fly within one mile of a turbine.

A 57-year pilot, Alan Larson, said wind turbines would have “an effect on our safety in Boone County.”

Tony Savino said there would be an adverse economic effect on properties located within 2,000 feet of a wind turbine.

The proposed 2,000 foot setback is not enough, Don Ellingson said, but it’s better than 1,000 feet.

Janine LaDuke read a letter of opposition from an organic farmer, who was unable to be at the hearing.