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Ford County Board Zoning Committee considers revised wind farm ordinance

The zoning committee of the Ford County Board hopes to place its revised wind farm ordinance before the entire board before its regular March monthly meeting. The committee has worked on the revisions for some three years but not during the past 10 months of pandemic shut-downs. Former committee chair Randy Ferguson did not call a meeting during that time but current chair Ann Ihrke said the committee will next meet Feb. 11 at 4 p.m. in the board’s meeting room at the jail to continue its work.

The committee worked mainly on language corrections at the direction of State’s Attorney Andrew Killian. Ihrke said setback recommendations will not be changed before the board sees the entire document to vote on it. As currently proposed, a turbine must be placed at least 2250 feet from the property line where a primary residence sits and 1320 feet from a property line without such a building. And the recommendation for the maximum height of a turbine is 500 feet.

Also at the meeting Sibley Village Board President Jim Kearney said Apex, the developer of the wind farm proposed for the western part of the county, has agreed to provide $85,000 annually to the village once it is on line. Also, it was learned that a road agreement between Apex and the county and the townships has been finalized. Zoning Officer Brandon Magers continues to look over Apex’s amended plans for that site. But Apex was granted its original permit in 2009 and will not be affected by any changes to the county’s ordinance.

Also it was learned that E.On Climate & Renewables North America the owner of the Pioneer Trail Wind Farm near Paxton owes about $690,000 in 2020 tax money including some $30,000 in interest. Treasurer Krisha Shoemaker has sent several letters to the company reminding it of the unpaid obligation.

But on Monday afternoon, Shoemaker reported that the tax bill, including interest, has been paid in full. Shoemaker said she found a check in the mailbox for $670, 419 from RWE Renewables Americas, LLC. “I was so relieved,” Shoemaker said.

She said that following the county tax sale on Feb. 17, the wind farm taxes along with the sale proceeds will be disbursed to the various taxing bodies.

Also Ihrke reminded committee members of proposals for solar farm regulations sent out 18 months ago but the committee last week did not discuss them. They did talk about how marijuana farms and dispensaries should be addressed in the county zoning ordinance. It is likely that operators will have to apply for a special or conditional use permit for such activities.