For Shabbona farmette owner Steve Rosene, the windmills near his home are not only a reminder of the divisions among longtime neighbors and friends who disagree over their presence, they also are a huge nuisance.
“The aesthetic stinks; they’re noisy,” he said. “It sounds like Paul Bunyan grounding ice.”
Rosene said he does not have windmills on his property, but there are two close by and more visible from all directions.
“This is not quite what I signed up for when I bought this property 24 years ago,” he said. “If I could wave a magic wand, they’d all be gone.”
In 2009, Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources commissioned a 145-tower wind farm in DeKalb County, installing 133 windmills in Afton, Clinton, Milan and Shabbona townships and 18 in neighboring Lee County. The company gained approval from the DeKalb County Board through a special use permit, as the county does not have a specific ordinance regarding sustainable energy.
Rosene shared his concerns about the proposed wind farm with the Daily Chronicle back in 2009, including that the windmills would be loud, block his view and jeopardize his property value.
His opinions have not changed much over the past eight years.
“I’ve tried to make the best of it because I really have no control,” Rosene said. “I don’t like them at all. I moved here specifically to acquire a place in the country; [the windmills] are an eyesore and obnoxious in general.”
Meanwhile, Randy Thorsen of Waterman has held onto his opinion in favor of the windmills.
For Thorsen, who hosts a windmill on his property, the extra $10,000 a year of income is a way to ensure the farm stays in his family.
NextEra officials estimated in 2009 that $50 million would be paid to landowners over the next 30 years.
Thorsen said the windmills’ presence has not affected his life at all.
“The harder the wind blows, you’ll start to hear them,” he said. “They make a slight whooshing noise, but it’s not like a jet airplane.”
Thorsen said the windmills are quiet compared to other noises out in the country, such as Waterman’s railroad.
“It’s very occasional when you hear noise [from windmills]; 95 percent of the time you don’t hear anything,” he said.
Disagreements over the wind farm have pitted longtime friends and neighbors against one another, the tensions even spilling into church congregations and leading many to resolve not to speak of the issue.
Eight years later, several residents living near windmills declined to comment on their effects, simply because they are sick of the stress the issue has caused their community.
Now, San Diego-based EDF Renewable Development is looking to build two 200-foot wind testing towers in South Grove Township south of Kirkland to determine whether conditions are favorable to build wind turbines in that area.
A second public hearing on the wind testing towers is scheduled for Thursday after opponents of the towers overflowed the meeting room in the DeKalb County Administration Building during the first hearing. Property owners also complained they were not given proper notification of the hearing.
A similar situation happened in 2009, when a public hearing about the proposed wind farm was canceled because there wasn’t enough space at the chosen venue to host the 400 people who showed up, and a rescheduled hearing drew more than 700 people and adjourned after nearly 19 hours.
Once the second hearing for the wind testing towers takes place, the Planning and Zoning Committee will rule on whether to recommend their construction to the County Board.
The County Board has placed a moratorium on wind and solar farm development for 18 months or until board members develop a sustainable energy ordinance. The moratorium does not prohibit the testing towers, however.
EDF officials have said it can take at least 12 months for initial results, but if it was found that it would be profitable to construct wind towers, the testing poles would stay up for another 18 months after construction began.
The moratorium is intended to provide time for county officials to investigate the effects of the existing windmills by conducting listening sessions with the public and assessing other wind farms and ordinances in other counties.
County Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski Jr. said it would be up to the company to decide whether pursuing the testing towers now would be worth the investment or if waiting through the moratorium period would be a better tactic.
He said members of the board and the Planning and Zoning Committee still are in discussions on what the listening sessions and research into wind farms will look like going forward.
“We’re doing our due diligence to make sure we cover everything,” Pietrowski said.
Possible wind tower effects listed in the moratorium ordinance include the value of surrounding properties; aesthetics near wind towers; shadow flicker; noise; effects on birds and bats; drainage around the towers; construction traffic near the towers; effects on aerial spraying of adjoining farms; and effects on TV, radio, microwave and internet reception.
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