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Panel to begin deciding on whether to recommend wind farm changes

DANVILLE – Members of the Vermilion County ad hoc wind advisory panel on Thursday will begin discussing whether to recommend that the county board make changes to the county’s wind ordinance.

The nine-member panel will be weighing public comments made during Monday night’s public hearing in Potomac, which was scheduled by county officials in response to several citizens calling for changes to the county’s ordinance, especially increasing the distance a wind turbine can be built from houses and other structures. The advisory board was created to hear the public comments and weigh them in deciding whether the county board should consider any changes to its ordinance, which currently requires 1,200-foot setbacks for wind turbines.

In addition to more than a dozen written statements that were submitted, about 40 people spoke during Monday night’s public hearing, including homeowners within the California Ridge wind farm in Vermilion and Champaign counties, who described problems with noise and shadow flicker from the turbines that disrupt their sleep and other aspects of their lives. There also were people who spoke in support of more wind farm development for economic development and other financial reasons.

Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard said the panel has the option of making a recommendation for change or making no recommendation at all. The panel meets at noon today in the third-floor conference room in the Vermilion County Courthouse Annex, 6 N. Vermilion St., Danville. It’s an open meeting, but county officials said there will be no additional public comment period.

Weinard said if the panel does have a recommendation, it will go to the county board’s executive committee, where that group of county board members will consider it and vote on whether to send it to the full county board for consideration. Weinard said often when an action item comes out of committee, it’s approved by the board, but he has seen it go the other way, too.

“And this is kind of a tough one,” Weinard said. “You are torn between people that have some personal anxiety as a result of the wind farms and you must balance that on the other side of the ledger – that it’s economic development. How do we balance those two issues?”

The members of the advisory panel include four county board members, John Alexander, Bruce Stark, Chuck Mockbee and Steve Fourez, in addition to Linda Bolton with Vermilion Advantage, Greg Hansbraugh, a Danville Area Community College faculty member, Mike Harmon, a financial representative, Bill Mulvaney, a school district representative and Doug Toole, a Vermilion County Health Department representative.

According to county officials, the advisory board will take into consideration the following as they decide whether to make a recommendation to change the county’s wind ordinance.

— Rights of property owners to control the use of their property and to develop it as they see fit.

— The economic benefits of wind turbine development.

— The reasonableness of safety and other precautions.

— The nature of the technology.

— The existence of any verifiable harm that cannot be remedied by technology or other steps.

— And the general interests of the community.