MONTICELLO – The Piatt County Board approved a final change in its wind-farm ordinance Wednesday that imposes a 30-hour annual limit on shadow flicker from turbines on adjacent structures.
It completes a nearly two-year undertaking that overhauled the original 2009 ordinance covering wind farms generating more than 500 kilowatts.
The 30-hour limit is more than the 15-hour maximum that had been recommended by the county zoning board of appeals. The county board also rejected another zoning board recommendation to expand the shadow-flicker limits to farmland with livestock operations.
“Our (zoning) ordinance doesn’t define that (pasture/livestock) anywhere, so I think the best would be to remove that as this time,” county board member Shannon Carroll said.
Local livestock farmer Dylon Gallagher pointed out later in the meeting that the county zoning code does have a definition for animal-feeding operations, which defines it as animals other than aquatic ones that “have been, are or will be stabled or confined or maintained for a total of 45 days or more in any 12 months prior.”
“So why aren’t you following all your own rules?” Gallagher asked during the public-comment period.
After the meeting, Carroll and County Board Chairman Ray Spencer noted that the terms “pasture” and “livestock” used by the zoning abord in its recommendation are not in the animal-feeding operation guidelines, and feared it was too open-ended as to animals that could be currently defined as livestock.
“We have no definition in the ordinance for pasture or livestock,” Zoning Administrator Keri Nusbaum confirmed.
It took three votes to approve the shadow-flicker addition to the zoning code. The first, a 15-hour limit that included pastureland with livestock as recommended by the zoning board, was defeated 5-1, with Todd Henricks dissenting.
A subsequent motion for a 15-hour limit not including pastureland and livestock was voted down 3-3 before the 30-hour limit without pastureland was approved 5-1. Randy Shumard was the lone “no” vote.
County board member Jerry Edwards said 30 hours is the limit set forth in a bill currently being considered at the state level.
“I think the state regs are going to pass, and they’re saying 30 hours. Before we waste any more tax money going back to committee and changing something, I feel very certain it’s going to be 30 hours,” said Edwards, who served on the zoning board prior to being elected to the county board in November.
Gallagher said the county should not assume the state measure will be approved, instead proposing an extension on the county’s wind-farm application moratorium, which was set to expire this week.
“You just kicked the can to the state. Basically, everybody but Randy is passing the baton to the state, and allowing the state to dictate the rules,” Gallagher said.
If approved, the state bill would also link blade-tip height limits to Federal Aviation Administration standards, and sound limits to those laid out by the Illinois Pollution Control Board.
The state bill could change the setback requirements Piatt County has already approved. SB 1602 sets them at no less than 2.1 times the blade-tip height from the outside wall of a structure. Piatt County’s code is currently 1.3 times the tip height or 1,600 feet, whichever is greater.
After approving the section on shadow flicker, the county board voted 5-1 to adopt the entire appendix of standards for wind farms generating more than 500 kilowatts. Randy Shumard was the only “no” vote.
Spencer thanked the county board and the zoning board for their work on the amendments, saying it was important to get changes made prior to any applications for wind turbines in the county.
For example, he said, the 2009 version had setbacks of 1,000 feet from primary structures, and no shadow-flicker requirements.
He said there was also urgency with the moratorium on wind-farm applications set to expire.
“It’s been a long time coming. The county could have been left exposed before,” Spencer said.
Apex Clean Energy has announced plans for its Goose Creek Wind farm in the northern part of the county, but has not yet filed for permits.
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