BELVIDERE – The Boone County Planning, Zoning and Building Committee on Wednesday voted 4-1 to recommend an amendment to an ordinance governing where wind turbines can be placed in relation to property lines.
The vote comes after months of debate and testimony over where turbines should be located in the county.
The revised ordinance states that wind energy conversion systems must be at least 2,640 feet, or 5.5 times the height of the turbine tower, away from a property line. The current ordinance states that wind turbines must be 1,000 feet from a residence.
The amended ordinance must still be approved by the full County Board at its Nov. 18 meeting.
“This goes to the issue of the safety and the health of residents of the county,” said David Cleverdon, a Caledonia resident who lobbied for a change in the ordinance. “It’s designed to protect them, and the board voted on it. It’s a good thing for the county.
The Board of Appeals voted 5-0 last week to support the amendment after eight months of committee meetings. Those opposing wind turbines in Boone County brought in regional experts and people who have lived near wind farms. They cited health issues related to the noise and shadows cast by the turbines. No wind turbines have been established yet in Boone County.
“It actually, to me, was an obvious thing to do tonight,” committee Chairman Denny Ellingson said after the meeting. “We had a vote to support all the information that was brought through all the ZBA testimony. Without anybody ever contradicting any part of that, it was just an automatic vote it seemed to me. I’m only surprised it was 4-1.”
Committee and County Board member Kenny Freeman cast the lone dissenting vote. He said evidence presented by supporters of the ordinance change wasn’t substantial enough.
“It was clear to me they were anti-wind people, and I will not be supporting this,” he said during the meeting. “I think it’s terrible for Boone County …”
Karen Kenney, a key supporter of the amendment, said she was “thrilled” by the vote.
“We’ve been researching for five years, so the last eight months have been a culmination of the knowledge and the information that we have gained,” she said. “If you got health, safety and welfare as the crux of your (ordinance) amendment, that is what every single County Board member raises their hand to uphold as they are sworn into office.”
The revised ordinance also would allow property owners to waive setback conditions if an agreement is made with neighboring property owners.
“If you want a wind turbine on your property, you can waive that,” Cleverdon said. “Then, you can go to the neighbors as well to waive that protection. Then it drops to 1,500 feet.”
Deb Doetch, a Poplar Grove resident, opposes the amendment. She said she and about 50 families have a landowner agreement with Mainstream Renewable Power, a company that has been looking to install wind farms in Boone County for about five years. A lawyer with Mainstream has represented their side in the debate, Doetch said.
She said the waiver is “illegal,” and if the County Board OKs the amendment, it will result in a lawsuit.
“Obviously it’s a disappointment, but there’s part of me that says you can’t get a fair hearing in Boone County,” Doetch said. “So maybe I’m smiling a little because this will force it to get a new hearing (in court).”
“I anticipated this vote,” Doetch said, “but I also greatly believe they can’t win with this ordinance.”
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