DANVILLE – Efforts to try and formulate changes for Vermilion County’s wind ordinance fell short Thursday.
An ad hoc committee of county board members and local residents formed late last year by the Vermilion County Board passed along six ordinances in January for inspection and possible passage by the county. Members of the county board’s executive committee effectively dismissed each of the ordinances at a meeting Thursday night based on Vermilion County Assistant State’s Attorney Bill Donahue ‘s recommendation.
Board members voted 6-1 in favor of not passing along the ordinances to the full county board. Kevin Green of District 2, also the chairman of the ad hoc committee, voted for passing the ordinances along.
Donahue reviewed the legality and feasibility of the ordinances before they went before the executive committee Thursday. He characterized the ordinances, overall, as an attempt to “destroy the development” of the wind industry in Vermilion County.
“If you want to make a change, you have to have some pretty good reasons,” he told committee members.
Ted Hartke, a longtime proponent of changes to the wind farm policy in the county, stressed the need to begin those changes with the proposed ordinances.
“Today would be a wonderful day to get all that started with,” he told committee members.
Another main proponent for wind farm changes, Darrell Cambron, also spoke out at the beginning of the meeting, saying the ordinances would not prevent other wind farms from locating in the county.
“It will simply hold them accountable for safely placing turbines where they need to be,” he said.
However, according to Donahue, only one ordinance dealing with decommissioning of a wind farm offered an idea for potential future examination. Donahue said the Illinois Farm Bureau, state department of agriculture and wind farm industry are in negotiations to create a plan that deals with decommissioning.
Donahue suggested reviewing the county’s decommissioning program every five years and then look over the plan under negotiations at the state level.
The ad hoc committee decommissioning ordinance – which takes entries from wind ordinances in Edgar and Adams counties – stated removal of the turbines must begin if the wind farm is not operational for 180 days. In addition, the resolution calls for the removal of below ground work as well as above ground work upon decommissioning.
The other five ordinances each deal with a different areas associated with the wind farms and wind turbines: setbacks from property, flicker caused by turbine blades, the warning light atop the turbines, affected property value and noise.
The setback resolution called for changes to include a setback of 1,640 feet from the property lines of non-participating properties. It also calls for a setback from roadways and communications towers of about 600 feet, or 1.1 times the height of the turbine.
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.
Green, in voting against Donahue’s recommendation, said he thought the setback ordinance would be passed along to the full county board.
The proposed ordinances 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.
Donahue described the remaining five ordinances as “not practical” for reasons ranging from inadequate or non-existent science supporting the noise and shadow flicker to, in the case of property values, extending beyond the powers of county government.
“They’re skirting the law,” he said. “We don’t have the power to do everything they want to do. They have to convince me we have the power without zoning.”
He also noted the proposed noise ordinance deals with an issue controlled by the Illinois Pollution Control Board. The same regarding the warning lights, which are monitored under standards set by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We’re not the FAA,” Donahue said. “They’re in charge of that.”
The ad hoc 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 only prior changes to the county’s wind ordinance came with the wind turbine setback increase a couple of years later and an increase of the wind turbine permit fee.
The presence of wind turbines in Vermilion County received support at Thursday’s meeting from two education officials: Danville Area Community College President Alice Jacobs and Oakwood School District Superintendent Keven Forney.
Both cited receiving more than $100,000 this year as a result of the taxation on the turbines, a turnaround from the lack of funding both schools suffered in recent years.
“Schools need more local fiscal support,” Forney told committee members.
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