A draft of a long-awaited, updated wind ordinance for Morgan County is now available ahead of Monday’s meeting, when the county commission is expected to vote on it.
Morgan County Board Chairman Brad Zeller expects a lot of discussion on the ordinance Monday. The new draft was posted online Thursday to give the public an opportunity to see and comment on it, he said.
The new draft adds 150 feet to the setback for non-participating properties, bringing the total setback to 1,650 feet. The setback to those properties is from the primary structure. The setback for participating properties is 1,320 feet – the same as a previous draft.
Setbacks for both types of properties in the original 2009 ordinance were 1,000 feet.
Setbacks have been a top public concern throughout the process. Zeller said feasibility was an issue for what some county residents had asked for in setback requirements.
“Most of what we have heard is that the people that have been diligent would consider no less than a half mile, which is 2,640 (feet),” Zeller said.
A second layer of setback requirements is included, making it so that wind turbines must be located at least 1.1 times the tower height or the fall zone, whichever is greater, from primary structures, adjacent parcel boundary lines, public roads, utility distribution and transmission lines, and communication towers. For example, a 600-foot wind turbine would have to be located at least 660 feet from the property line of a neighboring property.
The ordinance has generated community interest in the months the county has spent re-working it after a wind-farm project was proposed for the area.
Apex Clean Energy’s Lincoln Land Wind project, which aims to install between 80 and 100 wind turbines in the county, has been waiting in the wings while the 2009 ordinance was being updated. The project would produce up to 300 megawatts of electricity.
Mike Woodyard, an administrator for the Facebook group Ad Hoc Citizens Committee for Property Rights, said that the updated ordinance offers more protection for the county and its roads, larger landowners and participating landowners, but it doesn’t go far enough for small landowners and homeowners in communities like Alexander.
Overall, Woodyard said he’s disappointed with it.
“When you compare the two ordinances, as far as a non-participating homeowners … what does this new ordinance do to protect my home and my property compared to the old ordinance? It does nothing,” he said.
Among other requirements of the permitting process, a company must provide a proposed decommissioning plan, an agricultural impact mitigation agreement with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and analysis of possible interference on communication systems, such as television reception and emergency responders.
The ordinance requires noise from turbines to be in compliance with Illinois Pollution Control Board regulations, puts limitations on shadow flicker and addresses lighting.
“(Projects) shall utilize minimal lighting that is compliant with the applicable FAA regulations, as amended by the FAA. To the extent that such tower lighting is available, and is approved by the FAA for a (project), the applicant shall install aircraft detection lighting systems … or other similar technology to reduce light pollution and visual impacts caused by the (towers),” according to the document.
An annual report must be submitted by the company to the county and that report must include, among other information, a record of any complaints the operator has received about the wind farm. The applicant is also required to work with the county to create a system for logging and investigating complaints.
The company must also provide equipment and annual training to emergency responders “so that they can properly respond to a potential emergency” and must work with them to develop an emergency response plan.
Fees include a $50,000 deposit to cover county expenses during the review process, a $1,000 fee per tower and a $25 fee per vertical foot.
The commission will meet 9 a.m. in the courtroom of the Morgan County courthouse, 300 W. State St. The draft ordinance is available on the county’s homepage.
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