Tuesday night’s Livingston County Agriculture, Zoning and Emergency Services Committee saw discussion around a proposed advisory referendum, the subject and result of which the county would use as a polling sample regarding residents’ inclinations toward the construction of wind energy conversion systems, or wind turbines, in their townships.
However, State’s Attorney Seth Uphoff suggested it would be a difficult prospect deciding on the best language to use on such a referendum question, and on how the county wanted to parse information to voters.
After Uphoff had summed up the various meetings and discussions that had led to the decision to move forward with an advisory referendum, he offered that the gist of such an item being on the November ballot would be a data point, albeit only one in a series of other datas needed, by which the county could begin to look at possibly amending setback distances, township by township, without being deemed “arbitrary and capricious” if challenged in court.
Upon being requested to by the county, Uphoff said he and attorney Tom Blakeman had whittled the options of a referendum question down to three, those being:
• “Do you support the development of wind farms in Livingston County, Illinois?”
• “Unless a property owner agrees otherwise, do you support increasing the minimum distance that a wind turbine must be placed from a residence, from 3.75 times the height of a turbine, to ten times the height of a turbine, and do you support increasing the minimum distance that a wind turbine must be placed from a property line, from 1.375 times the height of a turbine, to four times the height of a turbine?”
• The third choice, which echoed the previous one but was prefaced with the words, “In your township.”
Uphoff stressed to the committee that there were pros and cons in each choice. The strength of first option was that it was simple and easy enough for voters and board members both to understand in the future. However, it may not provide enough reflection upon voter desires to be of any use.
On the other hand, he pointed out that while the latter two options were clear in their intentions, the numbers, as well as references to setbacks, might be meaningless to voters with little knowledge or stake in the specific issue of WECS.
Committee member Daryl Holt suggested simply the addition of “in your township,” before “in Livingston County, Illinois,” within the first option to get a better idea on a township’s residents’ willingness to have WECS constructed within them, rather than just relying on an individual’s or township’s support for the concept of WECS in general, which he thought were different questions.
The committee thought Holt’s suggestion a good one, and a step in the right direction.
When Uphoff polled the committee members about their feelings on how they wanted his and Blakeman’s future work adjusting the referendum question to go forward, the consensus was that they preferred choices of simplicity to ones overwrought with words and potentially confusing concepts.
The state’s attorney confirmed with Zoning Administrator Chuck Schopp that the County Board had until Aug. 22 to get one of the aforementioned choices submitted in order to be put on the November ballot.
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