BELVIDERE – Boone County Board members will send a clear message to residents Jan. 15 about their view of wind energy by either voting to change the county’s zoning language to significantly limit where towers can be or agreeing to keep the current ordinance.
The proposed amendment would require towers to be located a minimum distance equal to three times the tower’s height from property lines. Residents can choose to waive this distance requirement, although towers would still have to be at least 1,200 feet away from property lines.
The Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-1 Tuesday to recommend changing the county’s ordinance. Norm Stimes, Mark Rhode, Joan Krumm and Tony Savino voted in favor of changing the zoning language; Darrel Davis voted against.
“Our committee was reasonably attentive, and we tried our best to do what we thought was right.” Krumm said.
The current ordinance calls for 1,000 feet setbacks from primary buildings, most often described as a house. Homeowners can seek a waiver for that requirement, but with a waiver, the setback would have to be 1.1 times the tower’s height. Tower heights vary.
The push for changing the ordinance’s language is tied to Mainstream Renewable Power‘s interest in building a $300 million to $400 million wind farm with as many as 100 turbines on 12,000 acres in Manchester and LeRoy townships. The company estimates the development could generate $1 million to $2 million a year in property tax revenue for the county.
The issue has resulted in stakeholders and residents investing significant time and energy in the project. In past interviews, Marshall Newhouse, who previously chaired the county’s Planning, Zoning and Building Committee, said his family had spent 30 to 50 hours a week gathering input from residents. Vince Green, development project manager for Mainstream Renewable Power, said the company has spent more than $1 million educating the public on wind energy and land acquisition.
Talk of the amendment has led to highly contentious meetings between supporters, who argue that this renewable form of energy will net the county millions, and opponents, who raise concerns about the negative safety, health and welfare effects.
County Board members have not been exempt from the hostility.
A letter sent from unnamed “Concerned & Fed-up Residents of Boone County” to board members in December warned them that members will be held personally and legally responsible if they vote in favor of putting a wind farm in a rural setting.
“If any of the board members in favor of these projects are under the delusion that their life as (they) know it will not be personally affected, they are dead WRONG. A futile legal battle will be fought to the bitter end,” the letter stated.
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