DIXON – The Lee County Board this morning voted 12-9 to allow a controversial wind farm, overruling a decision last month by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The board approved the project, along with a number of conditions dealing with issues such as noise.
In April, the zoning board voted 3-2 against the proposal from Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power.
At today’s Lee County Board meeting, the audience was almost evenly divided between the wind farm’s supporters and opponents. Each side took its own area in the audience gallery.
On Friday, an attorney for the opponents contended the county needed a three-fourths majority to allow the wind farm. Hamilton Township had filed a written objection, the attorney said, which triggered the supermajority requirement.
However, Matt Klahn, an assistant state’s attorney for Lee County, said he researched the issue and found the three-fourths rule didn’t apply to special-use permits, which Mainstream was seeking.
Mainstream plans 53 turbines for the county’s southwestern corner.
Its proposal is part of a three-county wind farm, which includes Whiteside and Bureau counties. Last year, Whiteside County approved nine turbines, while Bureau County’s zoning panel recommended against Mainstream’s plan for 19 turbines, saying it didn’t meet the county’s requirements.
Mainstream withdrew its proposal in Bureau County, saying it planned to submit a new plan.
During the Lee County Board’s debate today, member Marilyn Shippert, R-Dixon, said it would be an insult to the zoning board to overrule its decision.
Others agreed, noting the panel had 27 sessions as part of the hearing on the project.
Member Tim Deem, R-Dixon, noted the project would bring jobs and hundreds of thousands of dollars in property tax revenue for school districts and other entities.
He also said he had gone by wind turbines and found noise and shadow flicker weren’t the problems that critics argued they were.
Allyn Buhrow, R-Ashton, said it was inappropriate to bring up money in making a zoning decision. Rather, he said, the purpose should be to protect the public’s health and safety.
He called wind turbines “the most intrusive special use we provide.”
Dick Binder, R-Compton, said many of those landowners allowing turbines on their properties are absentee. Many more residents in the project’s footprint, he said, will suffer the effects but won’t reap the financial rewards.
“To those who are looking at dollar signs,” Binder said, “are those dollars worth the tradeoff for 196 residents who will be affected for years to come?”
After the board’s decision, a number of residents spoke during public input to criticize the board.
Rick Porter, the attorney representing opponents, said he was disappointed in the decision, but called for a moratorium on new wind farms.
He said the county’s ordinance on wind farms was “antiquated,” urging the board to update it.
Bob Logan of Franklin Grove said the residents are the victims who have to come up with the money to fight turbines.
“From the beginning, you have been in bed with wind companies,” he said.
Pick up Wednesday’s Telegraph and Daily Gazette for more details.
How they voted
Here’s how Lee County Board members voted on the proposed Mainstream wind farm:
Kasey Considine, D-Amboy
Tim Deem, R-Dixon
Steve Kitzman, R-Dixon
Isaac Mercer, D-Dixon
Wes Morrissey, D-Amboy
John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove
Bill Palen, R-Dixon
Ann Taylor, R-Amboy
Jim Wentling, R-Dixon
Marvin Williams, R-Dixon
Greg Witzleb, R-Dixon
Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy
Bob Gibler, R-Dixon
David Gusse, R-Dixon
Dick Binder, R-Dixon
Allyn Buhrow, R-Ashton
Judy Truckenbrod, R-West Brooklyn
Jerry Leffelman, R-Sublette
Marilyn Shippert, R-Dixon
Vern Gottel, R-rural Sterling
Bernie Buckley, R-Dixon
Tom Kitson, R-Dixon
Arlan McClain, R-Dixon
Note: The 24-member board has one vacancy, with the recent resignation of David Chandler, R-Dixon.
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