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Wind farm panel reaches no conclusions

DANVILLE – A Vermilion County wind advisory panel that’s considering changing local wind turbine regulations didn’t reach any conclusions Thursday, except that there’s no way it can please residents on both sides of the issue – those who want more wind farm development and those who don’t.

John Alexander, chairman of the panel, said that after more than an hour of discussion Thursday afternoon, the issue is trying to please everyone.

“It’s a real dilemma,” he said. “I don’t have answers as to how to address noise issues.”

The nine-member panel of Vermilion County Board members and other local officials met for about two hours Thursday to discuss whether to recommend any changes to the county’s wind turbine ordinance that includes setbacks – the distance wind turbines can be built from primary structures like houses.

Their discussion comes just a few days after a two-hour public hearing Monday night in which more than 35 people testified for and against wind farms, including several residents who live in the California Ridge wind farm in Champaign and Vermilion counties.

The hearing was called by county board officials in response to local residents, requesting that the board take a closer look at its ordinance, especially its 1,200-foot setback.

Alexander read to the panel part of a letter from Invenergy, which owns the California Ridge farm, stating that increasing the setbacks would make it difficult to expand the wind farm in Vermilion County. Increasing the setbacks would decrease the number of spots where wind turbines could be placed, and the Invenergy letter stated that it would make developing a wind farm very inefficient.

Another wind farm project is proposed for Vermilion, the Hoopeston Wind Farm owned by Apex Wind Energy. But that project already has obtained a county permit and would not be required to follow increased setbacks if the county were to do change them. But if Invenergy moves forward with its phase two plan, it would be subject to any new setback rules.

Panel member Doug Toole with the Vermilion County Health Department said he doesn’t know that increasing the setbacks would solve the issues of noise and shadow flicker on nearby properties.

Panel member and county board member Bruce Stark said the county board already increased the setbacks once, from 1,000 feet to the current 1,200 feet, in response to the requests of some residents, and now they are asking for an increase in setbacks almost three times as large. He said he believes it’s about prohibiting further wind farm development.

“I have a problem with such a drastic measure,” he said. “That proposal would prohibit future wind farm development.”

Alexander told the panel to take all the information from the hearing and Thursday’s meeting and absorb it before they meet again at noon Wednesday in the Vermilion County Courthouse Annex, 6 N. Vermilion St., Danville. Alexander said after the meeting that he would like to see a conclusion to the panel’s work as soon as possible.