This Wednesday evening, the Boone County Board will vote on minimum setbacks for wind turbines if they are placed in the county. Much evidence has been submitted over the last nine months of public hearings and people on both sides of the issue have presented their opinions. In December the Zoning Board of Appeals agreed in a 4-1 vote that the evidence presented supported the increased setbacks in the county’s text amendment.
The process of amending the county’s Wind Energy Conversion System (WECS) Ordinance began when the text amendment was sent to the townships’ planning commissions for review and recommendations. As a LeRoy Township planning commissioner, I along with four other commissioners saw the text amendment on Jan. 7.
Specifically regarding wind turbines, the makeup of the LeRoy Township Planning Commission is three participants (those who have leased their land to the wind developer) and two non-participants (those who have not leased their land to the wind developer).
After hours of discussion, a recommendation was voted on and passed by a unanimous vote (5-0). The recommendation that came out of this meeting and was supported by the LeRoy Township Board was very similar to the text amendment originally sent from the county, differing on a few minor points that favor the participants and the wind developer.
Simply stated – this was neighbor working with neighbor finding a resolution to a difficult issue.
Manchester Township also adopted something very similar and updated its Comprehensive Land Use Plan to reflect their desire to the county. Township officials, from townships within the proposed project area, who are on both sides of the issue, have agreed on setbacks from property lines that are similar to the county’s text amendment.
The new setbacks, if adopted, will be in the form of a multiplier of the turbine height. This allows the WECS ordinance to easily adapt to growing turbine heights or shorter turbine heights if a developer so chooses. The new setbacks will be measured from property lines rather than foundations of homes. This will bring the WECS ordinance in line with county and state zoning codes that measure setbacks from the neighbor’s property line for the protection of the neighbor.
Zoning ordinances are written to promote and sustain orderly development in a county. When people consider moving, locating their business, or investing in property, a county that has orderly development, that protects its citizens’ health, safety and general welfare, including their property values, is a more desirable county to live, work and invest in.
Some people, including wind developers who do not live in the county, see no value in updating the WECS zoning ordinance and have no problem using 8,000-12,000 acres of Boone County’s rural places for a Chicago utility closet.
Boone County residents must remember – every minute of every day another acre of farmland is lost. Boone County has persisted in protecting her prime farmland. With the introduction of any industrial WECS development we will undoubtedly convert more precious land than we currently have set aside for our industrial district.
If Boone County chooses to move in this direction, her County Board owes it to her citizens to install responsible setbacks which protect the health, safety, welfare and property values of her rural families.
When neighbors work together with each other, as in this case, good solutions can be reached and communities can flourish. The townships look forward to the Boone County Board finishing what it started a year ago by adopting the text amendment.
Brian Van Laar is LeRoy Township Planning commissioner.
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