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County may look at wind ordinance

DANVILLE – A Vermilion County Board member wants to review the county’s ordinance passed for wind farms several years ago.

District 2 Board member Kevin Green of Oakwood spoke up at the end of Tuesday’s county board meeting and requested a committee to review the wind ordinance. According to Green, it has been three years since the county worked on the terms of the wind ordinance.

“I’m of the mindset that any ordinance be reviewed periodically,” he said Thursday. “This is one that has not been reviewed recently.

“We do have people in the community asking us to review it,” Green added. “They’ve been asking for a couple of years. It seems like the time is right.”

Unlike other counties that are the site of wind farms, Vermilion County does not have countywide zoning. The ordinance compensated for that by creating a building-permit format ordinance that oversees companies wanting to build wind farm projects in the county.

Vermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard said the idea of a committee is in a state of flux right now as it wrestles with best way to go about reviewing the ordinance. According to Weinard, the legality of some changes must be taken into account because of the lack of zoning.

“At this point, we’re trying to come up with a plan,” he said.

One idea already being considered is bringing the idea of reviewing the wind ordinance to the full board for consideration and a decision. If the majority speaks in favor of it, a committee would be formed.

The wind ordinance, first passed in January 2009, called for an original setback of 1,000 feet for the turbines. That was increased to 1,200 feet in an ordinance changed passed by the board in late 2011.

Green was among those on the board asking the county’s board executive committee to review the ordinance and make changes in 2011. He noted many people on the county board now were not board members when the original ordinance or the changes were passed. Seven new people have been elected to the board since the last ordinance change with at least two other veteran board members not running for re-election in November.

They could offer a “fresh perspective” to the discussion.

“Those people would give a fresh outlook to reviewing it,” Green said. “They bring no baggage to the table. They’ve not been involved with the initial discussion of the ordinance back when it was first written up by the county board and not part of the public hearings in Potomac or the structural safety committee.”

Several residents have been consistent and vocal about the effects they’ve suffered from the wind turbines as well as the need for a change to the county’s wind ordinance.

Green said the committee of board members would be capable of reviewing it on its own. If necessary, he said the committee members could consult non-board members.

Since the ordinance’s passage, two wind farms have located in Vermilion County. Invenergy’s California Ridge wind farm began operations at the beginning of 2013.

The second wind farm – Apex Clean Energy’s Hoopeston Wind Farm – is under construction north and west of the village of Rossville. The 49 turbines scheduled to be erected in that project are expected to be running during the first quarter of 2015.

Weinard said he was not aware of any other projects considering Vermilion County as a location. He noted the Invenergy project has an option for adding another 60-80 turbines to California Ridge, but he’s not heard any information regarding the company’s intentions.

Following Green’s suggestion Tuesday to review the wind ordinance, District 9 board member Jim McMahon spoke up, asking that the lack of countywide zoning in Vermilion County also be examined.

For Green, the issue of zoning is not part of his idea to review the county’s wind ordinance.

“That’s a whole different ball game,” he said.