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Residents meet to discuss plans, concerns swirling around wind farms

MALTA – DeKalb County residents gathered over the weekend to discuss what they would like to see in a wind ordinance in the works, and to voice concerns about a proposed wind farm.

Almost 100 farmers and landowners – most of whom live in and around the area of the proposed wind farm – flocked Saturday to the Kishwaukee College theater, where Brad Belanger, chairman for Concerned Citizens of DeKalb County, gave an update on the County Board’s progress with the ordinance and warned against adverse effects from wind turbines.

Update and input on wind ordinance

The DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee is about to begin work on the wind ordinance, now that a solar power ordinance recently was approved.

Phil Luetkehans, a lawyer who specializes in zoning for wind energy projects and one of the speakers at the event, said now is the best time to give input to committee members, as opposed to trying to change an ordinance that already has been approved.

Among Luetkehans’ recommendations is to gather as many affected community members as possible to provide input and to push for a 90-day period before a hearing when the ordinance is passed, as opposed to a 15- to 30-day period.

“What’s really important, no matter which side of this issue you’re on, is you get in there and you let your County Board members know where you stand,” Luetkehans said.

The meeting came more than a year after the County Board placed a moratorium on wind project development for 18 months, or until an ordinance specifically for such projects could be drafted. The moratorium would not have been possible without concerns raised from the community over a proposed wind farm from EDF Renewable Energy, rural property owners Jennette and Larry Sofranko said.

“Going to the board meetings, voicing our opinions, we were able to make a difference to get this whole thing started,” Jennette Sofranko said.

EDF Renewable Energy has undergone a similar project in Minnesota, where wind turbines up to 500 feet tall were constructed. The area that would be affected by the wind turbines extends from DeKalb County Line Road to First Street and from Twombly Road to Base Line Road, CCDC members said.

The company installed two 200-foot wind testing towers in July in South Grove Township.

Larry Sofranko said one thing he would like to see in the ordinance is a setback – a distance from the residential property to a wind turbine – of a half-mile, but he worries that the County Board, most of whom do not live near the affected area, will not understand the need for such a rule.

“I feel that a board member who lives 10 miles away from the wind farm is going to feel a lot differently about that wind farm than a board member who lives 1,000 feet away,” Sofranko said. “I doubt some board members who live east of here are even going to see the thing.”

Concerns of adverse effects

Many residents came to the informational meeting with their own concerns about the effects of wind turbines on or near their properties, and after a full presentation about the dangers of development as a part of the CCDC’s “Stop the Wind Farm” initiative, they left with many more.

Kirkland resident Renee Krabbe said her chief concerns are using farmland for purposes other than farming, shadow flicker from the turbines’ 100-foot blades and a decrease in her property value.

“I think it’s just a shame, too, that DeKalb County has some of the richest farm ground in the world, and we want to disturb it by putting concrete and access roads and more energy lines,” Krabbe said. “And you can’t get that back.”

The effect of wind farms on wildlife was another topic of apprehension.

Carly Stadie, animal care director at Oaken Acres Wildlife Center, said the nonprofit has been caring for a 1-year-old bald eagle named Freddie since he was injured in what she thinks was a collision with a wind turbine because of the location of the eagle and his injuries. After two surgeries and $3,000 to rehabilitate Freddie, who will have to remain in captivity for life, Stadie said she fears this will continue to happen to other eagles and bats within the county.

The next DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Legislative Center’s Gathertorium, 200 N. Main St., Sycamore.