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Vermilion County panel to mull wind farm, zoning rules

DANVILLE – At the request of two Vermilion County Board members, a new committee will consider two controversial topics: the county’s ordinance regulating wind turbines and zoning.

At the close of Tuesday night’s board meeting, board member Kevin Green said he and other members want to review the wind farm ordinance, and he asked board Chairman Gary Weinard if a committee could be formed. Weinard agreed to put together such a committee, and board member Jim McMahon asked if the same panel could also discuss adopting zoning in Vermilion, which has never had land-use regulation.

Weinard said he doesn’t believe that zoning is the answer to everything, but the committee could take that under consideration, too, if it’s the desire of board members.

Rick Knight, an Indianola farmer, has been a long-time, outspoken opponent of zoning, and he responded to McMahon’s request, saying that it’s not the desire of every board member. Chuck Mockbee said he agrees with Knight.

For more than a year, several members of the public have been repeatedly asking the board to reconsider its wind ordinance. In the absence of zoning, the county board adopted an ordinance stipulating some safety issues regarding wind turbines. The current ordinance requires a turbine to be 1,200 feet from houses, but some local citizens and some board members have continued to lobby for that distance to be increased.

Champaign County, which has zoning, has the same set-back, 1,200 feet, for wind turbines.

McMahon was county board chairman when the wind ordinance was written and approved several years ago. He said after Tuesday night’s meeting that zoning gives both sides of an issue an opportunity to be heard. He said if zoning had been in place before the first wind farm, it would have given a county body the opportunity to vote “yes” or “no.” Instead, the county only had the right to stipulate some safety issues, he said.