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Panel: Wind farm rules fine as is

DANVILLE – Despite complaints about noise and other issues with wind turbines, an advisory panel has decided not to recommend any changes to Vermilion County’s wind farm ordinance.

Meeting for third time, the ad hoc committee of the Vermilion County Board on Wednesday considered whether the county’s ordinance regulating wind turbines, including the distance they must be from primary structures like houses, should be changed. Residents in favor of changes and those opposed attended Wednesday’s meeting, but there was no public comment period.

Kim Cambron of Rankin – who has worked alongside her husband, Darrell Cambron, for more than a year, trying to convince the county board to revisit its wind turbine ordinance – said she was very disappointed by the panel’s decision. She said the panel didn’t give “any weight” to testimony from residents who live within the existing California Ridge wind farm in Vermilion and Champaign counties and are experiencing noise and other issues that affect their quality of life.

But the members of the nine-member panel agreed that the county has little legal authority to regulate the wind turbines any more than it already does through its existing ordinance. That ordinance requires each turbine to go through a permitting process that requires several things, including a setback of 1,200 feet from primary structures like houses.

At the request of the county, attorney Michael W. Condon with Hervas, Condon and Bersani in Itasca offered a legal opinion, stating in a letter to county officials that the county does not have statutory authority to further restrict wind turbines.

John Alexander, chairman of the panel, said that setbacks are really the one area where the county has some authority.

“The setback issue is the elephant in the room,” he said. “But I don’t see any evidence where we can set them back far enough to appease all of the issues that have been addressed.”

Alexander said residents who live as far as 1,600 feet or more from turbines have testified that they are affected by the noise.

But the panel also discussed that if the setbacks are increased more than the existing 1,200 feet, it could eliminate any further development for wind energy.

Invenergy LLC of Chicago has plans for a phase two of its California Ridge wind farm, but company officials have told the county that it would abandon those plans if setbacks were increased.

Alexander will make a report of the panel’s work and submit it to the county board for final consideration.