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Wind turbine noise guidelines adopted by county board

The Piatt County board has voted unanimously to keep its noise standards in sync with Illinois Pollution Control Board law when it comes to large-scale wind energy production. Noise experts say IPCB code caps noise at about 46 dBa (A-weighted decibels) when measured outside of adjacent homes.

That portion of the county code did not change by the action taken at the Dec. 9 county board meeting. However, an addition was made to make sure “homes and families that are affected by wind turbine noise levels shall be given due consideration as it relates to the health and enjoyment of the property of those individuals.”

Wind farm applicants – which soon could include Apex Clean Energy – would also need to submit studies showing they will meet noise standards.

Board member Randy Shumard expressed concern on how noise standards would be enforced locally.

“We have no enforcement in Piatt County to enforce any kind of noise control,” said Shumard. “I have too many questions. I’m not against wind. I’m not against it, but just put them somewhere where they’re not going to be a nuisance to the surrounding neighbors.”

Some stated that enforcement would be up to the IPCB, but a note on the state agency’s website said it may fall back on local agencies – or even the complainant.

“If the (Illinois Pollution Control) Board receives an informal complaint alleging noise pollution, the Board forwards the informal complaint to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). IEPA, however, no longer has the resources to operate a noise program. Accordingly, IEPA is no longer investigating alleged noise pollution,” said a note on the IPCB Frequently Asked Questions section on its website.

“As IEPA no longer runs a noise program, it suggests that you consider reporting your noise concern to the local police or health department. Local authorities may provide you with guidance, or take steps on their own to enforce the State’s noise laws. The Board, as the State’s environmental court and rule-making body, has no investigators,” it continued.

Anyone can file a formal complaint with the state, but the complainant would have to gather evidence to prove any alleged violations, according to the website.

Some who gave testimony before the zoning board in the past suggested a noise maximum of 30 dBa. Noise experts claimed that noise generated by nearby wind turbines would not exceed 30 dBa inside of homes.

Jerry Edwards, a member of the county zoning board prior to being elected to the county board, said the ZBA tried to strike a middle ground between allowing wind companies to consider Piatt County and ensuring public safety.

“That’s kind of the guidelines we were going on. You can set something ridiculously low,” he said. “If you set it low enough, you don’t have anything at all, then it’s a moot point.”

Board member Todd Henricks questioned why legal notices for county-wide ordinance changes were only published in one newspaper. Including it in the Journal-Republican – an official newspaper of record – meets legal requirements, but Henricks said it is not as widely distributed in the southern portion of the county.

“This is not a public notice, putting it in the Piatt County Journal-Republican for District 3,” he said.

Legal notices from most Illinois newspapers, including the J-R, can also be found online at publicnoticeillinois.com.

Tip height, shadow flicker next up

Now that the Piatt County board has approved wind turbine setbacks and allowable noise levels, the zoning board of appeals will now discuss shadow flicker and tip height at its meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 17) in the Piatt County Courthouse.

Current zoning code has a tip height of 500 feet for wind turbines. There is currently no guidelines for shadow flicker in the zoning ordinance.

If the ZBA recommends changes/additions to the ordinance, final approval would still be needed by the county board.

Masks will be required to attend Thursday’s meeting in person. It will also be available online via Zoom at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86836061325?pwd=Tmlha2ttc1Rvanp0VkR5cE9IemtIUT09.

Zoning requests approved

The county board on Dec. 9 also approved four zoning requests at its meeting. Those included:

–A special use permit allowing Victor and Nadalie Walsh to operate an outdoor event venue on agriculturally-zoned land they own near Mansfield;

–a variance to allow Harold Vogelzang to allow for the sale and residential use of 5 acres of a 140-acre parcel of A-1 (agriculture) zoned land at 681 E 1950 North Road, Monticello, to allow Vogelzang to deed that parcel to his son;

–a special use permit allowing Frontier Farms at 172 E 1500 North Road, Cisco, to construct and operate a grain leg elevator and grain storage facilities. The SUP was needed in order for the 145-foot high leg to exceed the county’s maximum height of 45 feet; and

–a variation for Michael Mack to construct a 50 by 60 foot shed 20 feet from the right of way on a 2.35-acre parcel of A-1 zoned land at 1209 E Old Route 47 in White Heath. Mack, who said he will use the building as a shop for his tractor trailer, was needed after he found a pipeline that also had a 25 foot setback.