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County reopens wind rules

DANVILLE – The Vermilion County Board tackled two of its more polarizing issues during its meeting Tuesday night.

Before the board at its monthly meeting were separate resolutions, one to investigate the use county zoning and the other to review the Vermilion County’s current wind ordinance. Each resolution called for a roll call vote.

In the closer of the two totals, board members voted 14-11 to approve opening up the county’s wind ordinance for review. Zoning, however, met with a sound defeat as the board voted 20-9 against the idea.

Both members of the public and board members spoke up regarding both resolutions during the evening meeting. John Alexander of District 6 spoke at length on not supporting the wind ordinance resolution but sympathizing with the residents who had voiced complaints regarding the ordinance.

Darrell Cambron of Rankin, one of the longtest-running residents to voice concerns, spoke to the board and indicated reviewing the wind ordinance was “right and fair thing to do.”

Ted Hartke of Hope, who also has spoken out regarding the wind turbines and ordinance, said the board “must make adjustments to correct” the ordinance.

With the board’s wind ordinance approval, chairman Gary Weinard asked Kevin Green of District 2 to chair the committee. He also suggested some of those who voted to approve the ordinance review sit on the committee “for their input.”

Weinard said Green has 30 days to call the committee to order and 180 days to return to the full county board with a report that can be legally acted on by the board members.

Most comments brought forward at the meeting were against the zoning resolution. Steve Fourez, a former county board member, represented the Vermilion County Farm Bureau in telling board members “you can’t have it both ways” when it comes to the issue of zoning. He cautioned against even allowing a committee to consider the issue.

“The more you discuss a bad idea, the better it sounds and the more accepted it becomes,” he said.

County board member Rick Knight of District 3 said he joined the county board 16 years ago regarding the issue of zoning. He told board members there are only two reasons a county like Vermilion should consider zoning: a large influx of people or a rapid increase in industry.”

“Vermilion County has neither,” Knight said.

Both issues were brought up at the August county board meeting. Green first requested a review of the county’s wind ordinance. That was followed by a similar request from Jim McMahon of District 9 to look at zoning for Vermilion County.

Green, in making the request, has said he believes any ordinance should be reviewed periodically.

Unlike some 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.

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.

Since the wind 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.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

• Board members voted to put the proposed budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year budget up for public display for the next month.

The move, required by state law, puts the budget up for inspection by members of the community until the county board’s next meeting in October.

The budget, approved by the finance committee in late August, has a slight deficit of $1.3 million, similar to the $1.08 deficit budget in last year’s budget. There is around $14 million in the general fund of the proposed budget.

The deficit is expected to be covered on a couple of different fronts. Officials have returned a good amount of unspent funds each of the last four years. At the end of the last fiscal year, as much as $1.8 million was returned to the county coffers.

In addition, there are a number of some expected reimbursements as well as intergovernmental money – including state funds – that the county did not include in the budget revenues until the money actually is received.

• Board members voted to approve a $10 fee that goes toward the local Court-Appointed Special Advocates program.

The fee is paid by felony and misdemeanor defendant where a decision of guilty is reached. The fee will be collected by the circuit clerk’s office and deposited in a fund set up for Vermilion County CASA by the county.