Morgan County’s wind ordinance is being met with opposition as it heads into its final phase of approval. The Morgan County Watchdogs, a group of people who are trained for watching political corruption and bad political policies, issued a statement in heavy opposition on Monday via their Facebook page. The group along with Ad Hoc Citizens For Property Rights, a group of Morgan County citizens opposed to the wind ordinance as well say the new draft ordinance does nothing to aid non-participating property owners in the wind program and also takes away accountability by eliminating democratically elected officials from the zoning board.
Mike Woodyard, a citizen a part of both groups, explains some of the main problems with the update of Morgan County’s 2009 zoning ordinance for wind farms. “The main concern is the setbacks from a non-participating homeowner. Currently, the old ordinance, it was 1000 feet from the foundation, not my property line, but from the foundation that sits just below my windows. There were some other issues with the old ordinance that needed updating. As far as the shadow flicker, it allows for 30 hours of shadow flicker a year under the old ordinance. We have the technology today, there’s actually software programs so there will be zero shadow flicker on a non-participating home. Shadow flicker is like a strobe light going off in your house and it’s very aggravating. The new ordinance comes out and none of these updates are in the ordinance. The only updates that are in the ordinance benefit the landowners who have signed up, the taxing bodies, and the developers. The non-participating homeowners actually ended up with less protection than what was in the old ordinance.”
Woodyard is a rural property owner who doesn’t plan to participate in the wind farm equipment being placed on his property. He and his family have lived in their current location for many years. His wife and children have lived on the property since birth. His wife’s family has been on the land for 5 generations.
Woodyard thinks the new ordinance takes property rights away by eliminating elected officials and replacing it with appointments from the County Commissioner Chairman. “Currently, the original planning commission board is made up of 7 elected officials and 5 government employees of Morgan County. The majority of the board is elected to positions that have some responsibility to the voters. The new board will be hand-picked by the Chairman. It will be a five-member board and answerable to the Chairman and the Morgan County Commissioners. I think the new ordinance is very un-democratic. I think one can imagine what the make-up of that board is going to be like. I don’t think we are going to see any property rights protections come out of that [new] board.”
Woodyard says that his group of people opposed to the wind farm appear small, but he feels that intimidation is keeping a lot of people’s mouths quiet. “Unfortunately, by the way the game is being played by the pro-wind side, a lot of people are intimidated. That’s unfortunate, because [the opposition] actually appears a lot smaller than we are because people are afraid to stand up. You’re going against the money powers. If you’re in the ag business, you’ve got the largest and wealthiest landowners in Morgan County that want these wind turbines because they’ve got the ability to see here that they are going to make millions of dollars more in the next 15 years. That’s a pretty powerful interest to go up against. If you’re in the ag business, you pretty much have to stay quiet. You can’t say anything. On the other side, you have the political establishment. They’re all for it. The school board already passed a resolution about it. It’s about the money for the taxing bodies, whether it be the county, the road districts, the school districts – they want the money. If my house’s home values get destroyed or my neighbor’s home values get destroyed, that’s immaterial. What’s important to the taxing bodies is that they have increased revenue.”
The new ordinance would effect all of Morgan County that’s a part of unincorporated zoning areas. Municipalities that have no zoning ordinance include Meredosia, Concord, Bethel, Alexander, Chapin, Woodson, Literberry, and Murrayville.
Turbines could also be placed in or near Lake Jacksonville and other unincorporated recreational areas. Woodyard is asking for those opposed to the ordinance to leave comments with the Morgan County Commissioners at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proponents to the bill say that the wind ordinance would bring much needed revenue to the county and that disruption to people’s lives are being overblown by the opposition. Others feel that the new ordinance is actually more protective of non-participating landowners than the 2009 ordinance.
Morgan County officials are trying to finalize the issue so that Apex Clean Energy can bring in an estimated $42 million tax revenue for the county. The new project would also bring 24 full-time local jobs to the county. Woodyard and his group has said they are willing to compromise by pushing the set back of the turbines to property lines, and have those setbacks to a ½ mile radius would be best for all involved. Apex has said that a stricter ordinance could endanger the project from even happening. The vote from Morgan County Commissioners is expected next week.
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