TUSTIN – Some think a proposed ordinance on wind turbine development in Sherman Township is good enough to protect residents and property values. Others say it doesn’t go far enough.
For years, township officials have struggled to balance the desires of many residents and members of Save Our Sherman, an organization devoted to the limitation of windmill development in the area, while also protecting themselves from potential lawsuits from turbine companies.
Wind turbines, such as those in the McBain area, are used to generate electricity but have been the source of some controversy due to the machines’ potential to reduce property values and damage the health of nearby residents and animals.
Such concerns center largely around the noise emitted by the turbines, their appearance in the natural landscape, as well as what is called “flicker,” when the blades move in the front of the sun.
Recently, the Sherman Township Planning Commission held a public hearing to discuss these issues and unveil their latest proposed ordinance.
Contained in the proposed ordinance are guidelines for the maximum height of the windmills, a minimum distance between windmills and audible noise standards, among other things.
There were several changes that differentiate the new ordinance from the old one, including that the maximum height of the windmills (with blade in upright position) can be no greater than 199 feet and the distance between windmills must be at least three times the height of the tower.
While a number of planning board members said they were happy with the ordinance, some in the audience were not.
SOS member Harvey Langworthy said the current proposed ordinance, if passed, could cause property values to “drop drastically.”
Among the issues he had with the ordinance was the distance between windmills, which he said should be at least half a mile, not 597 feet, as proposed.
Others in attendance during the meeting also had objections to the ordinance, including resident Adam Hundley, who said that compared to similar ordinances drafted in other townships, Sherman’s was “decidedly weak.”
Hundley added that having windmills in the township would take away from the strengths of the township, such as its natural beauty, as outlined in its master plan.
“We would need to either amend the master plan or amend the ordinance,” Hundley said.
Commission Secretary Tasha Lapinski said they could not make the ordinance so tight that the township could be sued by a turbine developer for “exclusionary zoning.”
“We can’t afford a lawsuit,” Lapinski said.
SOS member Victoria Brehm said the planning commission should enact more restrictive zoning, along with property protection provisions, in order to keep wind development out of Sherman Township – something she said has been done in other places.
She said her concern is that a windmill developer will sidestep the proposed ordinance by requesting a variance from the zoning board of appeals.
Commission Chairman Ron Moesta said he believed the ordinance will keep turbine development in check without being exclusionary.
“No wind company is going to come into our area,” Moesta said. “They don’t build little turbines (under 199 feet) anymore. It’s not worth their while.”
He added that he thinks the concern about a windmill developer sidestepping the ordinance is unrealistic.
“It’s highly unlikely any zoning board would approve that,” he said. “A request has to be within reason.”
In response to comments made during the public hearing, several commission members said they wouldn’t have a problem with increasing some of the setback requirements, as recommended by some residents and members of SOS.
Moesta said they also will discuss the possibility of including a property protection provision in the ordinance.
The next planning commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 3.
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