DANVILLE – Members of the committee looking at Vermilion County’s wind ordinance passed along several possible changes Monday night.
The ad hoc committee – made up of county board members – ended its three-month project of examining the wind ordinance by passing six resolutions for changes.
The resolutions each deal with a different area associated with the wind farms and wind turbines: setbacks from property, flicker caused by turbine blades, warning lights, property value, noise and decommissioning a wind farm once it is shut down.
The committee – with only two absent members – voted for all six resolutions at once, passing them 10-1. Committee member Todd Johnson of District 1 was the lone dissenting vote.
Board members discussed only briefly the distance called for the resolutions for set-backs. The resolution calls for changes to include a setback of 1,640 feet from the property lines of non-participating properties. It also calls for a set back from roadways and communications towers of about 600 feet, or 1.1 times the height of the turbine.
Johnson, in that discussion, questioned where the distance of 1,640 feet came from. Committee Chairman Kevin Green of District 2 said the total is derived from the employee safety handbook for the turbines being erected for the Hoopeston wind farm west of Rossville.
According to Green, the handbook states in case of runaway turbine operation employees should be evacuated 500 meters or 1,640 feet away.
“A non-participating landowner standing on his own property should not be in an evacuation zone,” Green said.
Currently, the Vermilion County wind ordinance calls for the turbine towers to be set back 1,200 feet from the primary structure on a property. The original ordinance allowed for turbines to be 1,000 feet from the primary structure on property.
Doug Toole, director of environmental health, spoke out during the meeting’s public comments and voiced concern about the resolutions presented Monday night. He told committee and audience members he had trouble following some of the resolutions “from incident to investigation to enforcement.”
Dennis Miller of District 6 spoke in favor of the work put together by the committee members, noting the resolutions are “the best we can present to the county board.”
Next up for the group of six resolutions is the Vermilion County State’s Attorney’s Office where each will be checked, Green said, “to make sure anything we propose does meet legal stature.”
Once the resolutions make it past that hurdle, they will move on to the county board’s executive committee. Members there will discuss the issues before voting on whether all, some or none of the resolutions move on to the full county board.
Assistant State’s Attorney Bill Donahue said on Friday he expects to need at least three weeks to go over the legal nuances of the proposals laid out in the resolutions. That will extend beyond the next executive committee meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 22.
Barring a rescheduling, the next executive committee meeting will be the last week of February, putting any approved resolutions before the full county board in March.
Other changes the resolutions set up include precautions regarding decommissioning. That resolution – which takes entries from wind ordinances in Edgar and Adams counties – states removal of the turbines must begin if the wind farm is not operational for 180 days.
The specified time is to ensure quick action, according to an explanation attached to the resolution. In addition, the resolution calls for the removal of below ground work as well as above ground work upon decommissioning. The intent there is to make sure the large underground foundation pads for the turbines do not inhibit future development of properties.
Resolutions also cited sleep deprivation as reasons for noise control of the turbines and asked for assurances from the wind farm developer that there will be no loss in value for property owners who try to sell their land in the future.
The committee officially was formed in October after a majority of county board members voted to reexamine the county’s wind ordinance, which was originally passed in 2009. The sole change came with the set back increase a couple of years later.
Monday’s meeting comes after the ad hoc committee had trouble reaching quorum at its last three meetings: Nov. 6, Nov. 20 and Dec. 11.
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