Big changes could be on the horizon for Worth County.
In recent weeks, the Worth County Board of Supervisors and the Worth County Planning and Zoning Commission have begun discussions over the possibility of instituting countywide zoning.
For the past few months the board had been reviewing an ordinance on wind energy to help put restrictions into place for wind energy projects in the county.
The ordinance was drafted partially in response to the Worthwhile Wind energy project by Invenergy, which has been in development in Worth County since 2018. The company aims to build a wind farm in Worth and Winnebago counties.
That ordinance was approved by the planning and zoning commission in July of 2021, and was far enough into the process that the supervisors were prepared to host public hearings and the first reading of the ordinance back in December. However, following that meeting no further action has been taken.
“If they (the supervisors) passed the ordinance and if the ordinance were challenged it would have a stronger case if there were county-wide zoning to go along with the ordinance,” planning and zoning commission chair Jeff Gorbal explained. “It might be seen as discriminatory against one kind of development.”
Currently, only three of the county’s 12 townships are zoned, which Gorball believes creates an unfair environment in the county.
“I believed it was rather discriminatory to have county zoning applied to three of 12 townships,” Gorball said. “Essentially one-quarter of the land of the county falling under zoning regulations while three-quarters do not.”
The planning and zoning commission is hoping to move quickly on this, with an aim to host a first public hearing for input in the coming weeks. Gorball said this is a possibility because all that needs to be done is to institute the zoning regulations for the three zoned townships for the entirety of Worth County.
Gorball estimates the supervisors could have a county-wide zoning proposal from the planning and zoning commission as early as April.
The county’s moratorium on wind development ends on July 1.
While Gorball spoke favorably of instating countywide zoning, he said it wasn’t a guarantee it’ll be implemented.
“It’s the decision and responsibility of the three county supervisors to make that decision,” Gorball said.
Worthwhile Wind’s future is now in limbo after its development agreement failed to pass through a board meeting in October, but Invenergy has remained adamantly countered that any potential ordinance on wind energy would not apply to Worthwhile Wind, due to them having vested rights in the community.
There’s been significant opposition to the project, with detractors citing the negative impacts of turbines and broken promises made during the construction of Invenergy’s nearby Deer Creek wind farm as reasons for more restrictions to be placed on wind energy. However, proponents of the project point to the $4.8 million in tax revenue it would bring in infrastructure improvements within the county.
The commission will meet this Wednesday, Feb. 9, to continue ironing out the details of county-wide zoning possibilities.
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