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Winnebago board to review wind turbine setbacks

FOREST CITY – Several landowners at the June 14 Winnebago County Board of Supervisors meeting want the county to establish setbacks for any wind turbine placed in the county.

Joe Larson, who represented the landowners, said the setbacks should be 2,650 feet from a residence and 1,500 feet from a property line, “similar to a hog confinement.”

The recommended setbacks would protect those who consider wind turbines a nuisance because of noise, height and other factors and also protect the wind rights of nearby landowners, Larson said.

Supervisors said the concerns attached to the setback recommendations were valid but they were not ready to take action.

“We need more time,” Supervisor Terry Durby said. “You just brought this to us today.”

Durby said he wants to review the information along with information from other counties and sources.

Supervisors said they must weigh concerns with the economic impact of wind turbines and with turbine supporters who are less concerned about setbacks.

EDF Renewable Energy has proposed a wind turbine project for Winnebago County. The company is working with landowners to secure spots to place turbines, mostly in the northern portion of the county.

“The extra revenue would help ease the tax burden in the county,” Supervisor Bill Jensvold said. Yet of the county residents he’s spoken with, about 80 percent are against the proposed wind turbine project, Jensvold said.

Lee Kiewet favors the recommended setbacks. He said landowners may be against the proposed project because “there are no (setback) rules.”

“If the county had rules, people may support it,” Kiewet said.

Kiewet said landowner may get paid $6,000 to cooperate with a wind turbine company today but that price could increase in five years to $12,000 with a different company. Kiewet said he may decided to cooperate at $12,000.

But if the county doesn’t have setback rules, landowners may not be able to make such a choice, Kiewet said.

Although EDF has said it won’t place wind turbines too close to residences and property lines, a county policy on setbacks would dictate placement, Kiewet said. The company would need to negotiate with landowners if it wanted to place turbines nearer than 1,500 from a property line or nearer than 2,650 feet to a residence, Kiewet said.

As to economic benefit, Kiewet said if a landowner builds a machine shed, the landowner pays full taxes, may have kids in school and even employ people.

Wind turbine companies get tax breaks, Kiewet said.

“The comparison to a machine shed isn’t very fair,” Durby said. “A machine shed is taxed at agriculture rates which are very low.”

The estimated annual tax revenue on each wind turbine is $27,000 to $31,000, Durby said.

Larson said the question for the county is whether a wind project company dictates where turbines are placed or if the county does that.

Landowner Dean Balvance said he’s not interested in protecting his rights to place a wind turbine on his property.

“I do not like to look at them,” Balvance said.

He said he is more concerned about protecting the drainage system. When cranes are used to install turbines they can crush drainage tile, Balvance said.

Protecting drainage tile is important and the county wants to make sure any damaged tile is repaired by a wind turbine company, supervisors said.