August 14, 2013

Boone County still struggling to settle debate on wind farms

By Shaun Zinck | Beloit Daily News | August 13, 2013 |

BELVIDERE, Ill. – After over a year of public hearings, the push to change the wind turbine setbacks in Boone County is no closer to being amended.

Last summer the Boone County Board opened up the ordinance for a text amendment to increase the setback distance. Since then it has gone through the zoning committee once, to the board for a vote and then sent back to the committee.

In November the Boone County Zoning Board of Appeals recommended the setback for wind turbines be 1,500 feet from property lines. However, the board sent the ordinance back to committee in December for more hearings, said Gina DelRose, associate planner for Belvidere-Boone County Planning. The current setback is 1,000 feet from the primary structure of a neighboring property.

“They thought (the setbacks) should be three times the height of the turbine,” she said of the county board.

When an amendment is in front of the board of appeals anyone that wishes to speak on the topic can for five minutes. They can also be questioned for up to 10 minutes, DelRose said.

Each meeting is cut off after three hours, so several meetings had to be scheduled in order to fit the number of people that wished to speak. The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 27, however, the topic might not come up if there isn’t enough time, DelRose said.

She added no project has been started to bring a wind farm to Boone County, but the global company Mainstream Renewable Energy has expressed interest in bringing wind turbines to the area. They have not filed an application yet, DelRose said.

Groups fighting for both looser and stricter regulations have been to all the meetings. Lavonne Wundrow, who owns a farm in LeRoy, Ill., said she believes the wind turbines will help the county’s economy.

“Our township has no industry besides farming,” she said.

She said the group that is fighting for tougher regulation won’t be near where the wind turbines would be located. She added she would like to have a personal smaller wind turbine on her farm one day in order to help with the energy costs.

“We feel our energy price is going to jump up, and it’s getting hard for us to keep milking cows,” she said.

Wundrow said she believes the 1,500 feet barrier was fair. Her husband Leslie Wundrow said the wind turbines would create more energy independence for the county.

“We’re all interested in renewable energy and the fact that it would bring in funding for the county,” he said. “We have to do something in this country, and we can’t continue to be dependent on someone else all time.”

Brian Van Laar, spokesman for the Concerned Citizens of Boone County, a group of residents that are pushing for an increase in the 1,000-foot setback from a primary house, said the current ordinance can limit a person’s property use.

“If someone has a fairly old farm house, and they want to rebuild it somewhere else on their property they could be going against county ordinance if it was too close to the turbine,” he said. “So it limits the use of your property.”

He said the 1,500-foot setback from the property lines “is a good compromise.” However, the current ordinance doesn’t look at the height of the wind turbines, which he said have grown over the years. Some can reach up to 500 feet.

“We want to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the residents as well as the property values of land owners,” he said.

The group is also fighting for a 1.5 mile barrier near Sharon, Wis., which Van Laar said will protect the property values of residents in Wisconsin.

“We’ve been labeled anti-wind, but what we want is responsible sitings,” he said. “We do believe it’s doable.”

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