Proposed changes to the Edgar County windfarm ordinance brought several speakers urging stringent measures to the Wednesday, Nov. 4, county board meeting.
Rep. Brad Halbrook (R-Shelbyville), fresh off his re-election the day before, said the local ordinance must offer protection to those on both sides of the issue.
“I’m neither for nor against windfarms,” said Halbrook, claiming a windfarm development often pits absentee landowners against locals. “It’s incumbent on us to protect people.”
His other concern is creating a local ordinance with sufficient teeth to deal with the decommissioning issue. He said on a recent tour of a windfarm in another part of the state there were at least six disabled towers and no plans existed for decommissioning them.
“Everybody has a right to use their property, but we have to be concerned about the downstream results,” said Halbrook.
Other speakers at the podium included Ford County Board Member Debbie Smith, Kirk Allen, John Kraft, Will Cooley and Ted Hartke.
Smith said Ford County has two windfarms and a third in the permitting stage. She said trying to stay ahead of the developing technology of windfarms is a challenge, and Ford County has a moratorium in place to give the board adequate time to create an ordinance that offers protection to non-participating landowners.
She explained a moratorium is not a ban, because that cannot be done. Nor is a moratorium open ended as county officials must demonstrate progress on working toward creating or amending an ordinance.
Allen said the Edgar County ordinance created more than 10 years ago is inadequate and needs not only height limitations but also a multiplier formula attached to rotor diameter to determine construction setbacks.
Hartke’s issue is noise limitations. He admitted originally being in favor of the Vermilion County windfarm, and was not concerned when a tower was erected 1,650 feet from his house, which was beyond the required setback.
“When they turned it on my family had trouble sleeping,” he said.
Subsequent tests revealed the house was exposed to a noise level beyond 40 decibels, which may cause sleep disruption.
“The noise is not such that you have to hold your ears, but it is constant and fluctuates and you can’t get used to it,” said Hartke.
He described the noise in the house as akin to a low bass coming from a stereo sub-woofer.
“I realize this doesn’t affect everyone, maybe about 10 to 15 percent of the population,” said Hartke. “But it is real for me.”
He suggested a setback of 3,250 feet as adopted by two other Illinois counties.
County board members know the existing windfarm ordinance is inadequate, and for several months board president Jeff Voigt, board member John Chittick with county engineer Aaron Lawson have worked on making revisions aimed at strengthening the county’s position.
The revised ordinance was on the table for adoption Wednesday morning. There was some discussion about delaying adoption and implementing a moratorium to allow for more consideration. The issue of a moratorium was not on the agenda, so that action was not a possibility.
“I’m reasonably comfortable with the changes we’ve made,” said Chittick. “I would like to do it (adopt the revised ordinance) as a stop gap rather than wait two weeks to do a moratorium.”
The board adopted the changes with a new revision that turbines be kept a minimum of 3,250 feet from primary structures. That setback may get altered in the future.
Board member Karl Farnham Jr. asked that Edgar County State’s Attorney Mark Isaf put together the necessary documents so the county can declare a windfarm moratorium while continuing to work on the ordinance.
The board members’ goal is to declare a moratorium at the Nov. 25 meeting. Voigt added at that time a permanent windfarm committee needs created to address issues. He also noted one change in the revised ordinance makes the county board a committee of the whole for application and sighting approval.
Voigt did make appointments to a new committee for creating ambulance bid specifications in Special Service Area #2. The purpose of the new taxing district is to underwrite the costs of keeping a Chrisman-based ambulance to serve Young America, Ross, Prairie, Brouilletts Creek, Edgar and Shiloh townships. Derrick Lorenzen is chairman and the other committee members are county board members Andy Patrick and Lisa Ellis, Chrisman Fire Chief Mike Marvin and Kevin Julian, president of the ambulance board now serving the area.
Both Lorenzen and Patrick previously served on the committee for bidding the Special Service Area #1 contract for ambulance coverage in the southern half of the county.
Much of the rest of the meeting was devoted to annual fund transfers into the general fund as preparation for closing the county’s fiscal year on Nov. 30.
The board authorized a new budget and levy request to layover for the required inspection period of 15 days. The new budget and levy will be approved at a special board meeting Nov. 25, and cover the period of Dec. 1, 2020, through Nov. 30, 2021.
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