POTOMAC – A large group with plenty of opinions on both sides of Vermilion County’s wind turbine issue turned out Monday night for a public forum.
The crowd of both onlookers and speakers filled the expanse of bleachers along the southern wall of the gymnasium at Potomac Grade School. More than 40 speakers – 37 from Vermilion County – signed up to step to the podium.
Among those was Ted Hartke, who lives with his wife, Jessica, and their young children along Illinois Route 49 near Hope Church.
Hartke described the problems created by sounds he said are produced by the wind turbines situated near his home, noting they are loud enough to wake him and his wife as well as their children from a sound sleep at night.
Jessica Hartke went into more detail, using scenarios like an “airplane landing in our yard” and “a semi running outside your window” to describe the unsettling wind turbine noise. She added the family can feel low frequency vibrations in their home, which they also attribute to the turbines.
Their conclusion: Rework the county’s wind ordinance setbacks for the turbines as well as substations.
Monday’s forum was the result of a February county board committee meeting in which District 2 board member Chuck Nesbitt requested a moratorium and a change in the set-back distance in the wind ordinance.
Currently, the Vermilion County wind ordinance, which was adjusted last year, calls for the turbine towers to be set back 1,200 feet from the primary structure on a property. However, the original ordinance – the one Invenergy applied and received a permit through – allows for turbines to be 1,000 feet from the primary structure on property.
The California Ridge Wind Farm is the only wind farm established in Vermilion County. The wind farm – which includes 134 turbines, 104 of which are in Vermilion County – officially began operations at the end of December. It is owned by Invenergy LLC.
One by one residents from as far south as Catlin and Danville and as far north as the Hoopeston area stood in front of the forum’s panel to voice their opinions pro and con for the wind turbines and county wind ordinance.
The panel of officials will meet at noon Thursday on the third floor of the Courthouse Annex, 7 N. Vermilion St., to discuss the opinions voiced Monday and to issue a decision whether to rework the wind ordinance or leave it as it stands.
Larry Betka lives in the Hoopeston area. He was among several residents who disputed a setup increase to 1,300 feet from the property line that was proposed by District 2 county board member Chuck Nesbitt.
“You will not have a place to build a wind farm with that kind of setback,” he said.
Another Hoopeston resident, Kevin Moore, pointed out the county wrote its 2009 wind ordinance according to rules laid out by ordinances from other cities.
“And now everyone want to change the rules,” he said. “I don’t think that’s right.”
Matt Cavalenes of Catlin voiced concerns about the property value hit the county could take as a result of the turbines.
“This is going to continue for the next 20 years,” he said, pointing to “all of the revenue the county is going to lose in property that can’t be sold.”
Danville resident Lynn McClendon supported that point, saying his hope is to one day own a little piece of rural property in the county.
“I will not consider any property within eyesight of a wind farm,” he told panel members.
Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard said after the speakers that while some of the concerns are legitimate, there is only so much the county can do regarding some of the complaints due to the fact there are no zoning laws in Vermilion County.
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